2009-12-17 / Front Page

Commissioners In Limbo Over Pay Raise Decision

By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

The Fulton County commissioners considered themselves to be “in limbo” this week as they ponder how to officially reduce their own preapproved pay raise to help the county save money and fund a salary increase for county employees.

Last week the commissioners publicly announced, in conjunction with the release of the 2010 general budget, they would be slashing their scheduled 3- percent raise. Commissioners’ salaries and raises were previously set in October 2005 by the last board of commissioners for the year 2010.

As a result, like fellow county employees, the commissioners would only be receiving a 1-percent raise next year.

County Treasurer Monica Seville also agreed to waive 2 percent of her three-percent raise, and other elected county officials were contacted to see if they were interested in participating in this cost-saving scheme. To date, only two additional elected officials have stepped forward to participate but are only willing to take a pay raise cut of 1 percent.

This week, the commissioners and Seville met with business manager Tim Stanton to determine how the pay raise reduction can be legally addressed. In perusing information from the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, the group learned elected officials are typically set at the same wage rate, and the proposed change would therefore make the rate uneven for years to come.

It was also noted it is not legal for elected officials to forego an approved pay raise. However, it is likely the money could be withdrawn as a payroll deduction and given to the county as a charitable contribution. Questions were aired whether the county could receive charitable donations and what effect the withdrawals would have on the federal tax forms of participants.

“It seems you can’t do anything simply,” said Commissioner Bonnie Mellott Keefer. “Our intent has been to save the county money.”

Commissioner Keefer added by the time the issue of payment of federal income taxes is addressed, all participants will likely lose the remainder of their 1- percent raise. Fellow Commissioner Craig Cutchall said that the deck of cards has already been placed in front of them, and the situation can’t be changed now.

Stanton agreed to check with commissioners from neighboring Franklin County to see how they have handled such matters in the past.

Modifications were made to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) contracts for the years 2007 and 2008 to include a total of $8,272.73 for the initial year for roadway improvements in Wells Township. In 2008, the amount of $41,106 has been set aside for administrative services, $20,090 for additional road improvements in Wells Township, $75,000 for sidewalk improvements in McConnellsburg Borough and $91,000 for the Needmore sewer project in Bethel Township.

The modifications were approved with a stipulation placed on the McConnellsburg Borough’s money stating Borough Council must have the proper ordinances in place to proceed.

County projects coordinator Karen Hann reported the mod- ifications were as a result of the county reallocating funds that were previously earmarked for the proposed Burnt Cabins sewer project.

Hann also touched on the proposed 2010 CDBG allocations that will see $25,000 set aside for an enclosed ramp project for Taylor Township; $160,392 for multi-municipal on-lot sewer management systems and $3,000 for Todd Township’s overflow evaluation. An additional $41,354 will be utilized for program administration.

Hann concluded Todd Township is eligible to receive their funding but has not yet received necessary surveys.

Hann also was present during the commissioners’ sit-down with Tom Morisi and Shawn Ritchey from Keller Engineers on the status of the JLG turning lane project. Morisi reported a total of $811,000 in funding has been set aside from construction costs. Furthermore, construction is set for 2013 with the let date for contractors tentatively set for January 2011.

Morisi noted his firm is trying to tailor the design work to meet the budget, which includes a total of $215,000 through a local county match. Of the match, $52,000 was from JLG Industries and $30,000 was donated by Ayr Township.

Hann questioned who will be held responsible in the event the project goes over budget. Morisi stated he would need to obtain clarification from PennDOT on the issue.

Technology Director Eldon Martin was authorized to follow through with securing a dedicated Internet connection to be utilized in the courtroom for video conferencing. Cost for obtaining the line has been calculated at $780 annually.

Martin also touched on concerns regarding the drilling of geothermal wells in McConnell Park and the possibility that contractors may inadvertently break the double conduit fiber in the park that allows for communications in the courthouse and offices located on the eastern side of North Second Street.

Martin was instructed to mail a letter regarding the purchase of tax collection software to the county’s 13 township tax collectors. The software would cost the county a maximum of $4,500. Fees include $150 per year per participating tax collector as well as a fee of 8 cents per tax bill.

It was noted by Martin and the commissioners that the software would eliminate manual input and calculations thereby making the overall process easier for county employees and tax collectors. The system also allows for the reprinting of bills.

The commissioners met with Terry Sheffield and Barbara Covert of Huntingdon County CareerLink, who reported on the status of the local employment and training office. In spite of the fact the office location is smaller, the officials reported they are pleased with their new office space in the Shelly & Witter office.

McConnellsburg resident James Butts appeared before the commissioners to discuss a request through the Freedom of Information Act that was submitted to business manager Stanton.

Attorney Jim Schall met with the commissioners behind closed doors to discuss negotiation matters, while Sheriff Keith Stains discussed personnel matters during executive session.

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