County finds enough in budget

WARREN – Nine employees in the Trumbull County Auditor’s Office and one in the Prosecutor’s Office received pay increases of 10 percent or more since the start of 2015 and six of those people – all Auditor’s Office employees – collected raises of 20 percent or more.

One person in the Auditor’s Office topped the 30 percent mark; he was given a 30.56 percent raise, according to wage figures compiled by the Tribune Chronicle.

The raises happened sometime between January and July. It was in February when Trumbull County commissioners began considering increasing the 6.75 percent county sales tax to 7 percent to help pay for the justice system, which includes the courts, the coroner’s office, sheriff’s office and the jail.

Commissioners, who had the last word on whether to impose the tax increase or put it to voters, backed off the idea in April after the public reacted negatively to the notion at two sales tax hearings.

The increase would have generated about $6 million more a year.

The double-digit increases in the Auditor’s Office ranged from 10.53 percent to 30.56 percent. One other employee received a 9.87 percent raise.

In the Prosecutor’s Office, the largest increase was 14.94 percent.

Trumbull County Auditor Adrian Biviano said the reasons behind the raises in his office were a mix of bringing employees up to levels of their peers, giving additional responsibilities to workers and promoting to positions with higher hourly rates of pay.

Just one employee in the Prosecutor’s Office cracked the 10 percent barrier – office manager Joyce A. Hoffman, with the nearly 15 percent increase – but another employee, assistant prosecutor Lynn B. Griffith III, was close to the mark at 9.96 percent.

The larger of the two increases, according to Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, was because of a promotion.

Eight employees who work in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court received raises. The greatest was 4.82 percent.

According to the Tribune Chronicle’s review:

John J. Golias, deputy auditor, received the 30.56 percent increase. Other employees and the increases they were received were Lora A. Superak, 24.91 percent; William M. Nicholas, 24.53 percent; Debra E. Santangelo, 21.61 percent; James P. Stan, 22.57 percent; Bernard McDermott, 20.62 percent; Marsha A. Mason, 16.29 percent; Mark Malacky, 16.02 percent; and David Ranttila, 10.53 percent.

When Golias, Mason and Superak were hired, they were paid less until they learned their jobs and they stayed at those levels until this year, Biviano said. Golias was hired in 2007, Mason in 2009 and Superak in 2012.

“They worked at these pay levels for several years,” Biviano said.

Golias was hired to process personal taxes, but when an appraiser position opened, he applied and was given the job. His hourly wage increased from $18.06 in January to $23.58 in July, according to county records.

Mason and Superak were hired as deputy auditors, at $14.48 and $14.13 per hour, respectively. Mason was given a $2.36 per hour increase while Superak was given a $3.52 per hour increase.

Nicholas and Santangelo were given double-digit percent increases because they were given additional duties.

Biviano did not fill the chief deputy and chief administrator positions when the people who formerly held those positions retired in 2011 and 2007.

“Nicholas, who had been an appraiser, now is the office’s chief administrator and its chief appraiser,” Biviano said. “Santangelo was an accountant. She has been filling in the positions of chief deputy auditor and as an accountant.”

“Both Nicholas and Santangelo have divided jobs that have been open for at least four years,” Biviano said “They simply were not paid for the extra amount of work. They have been working without complaint.”

Nicholas’ pay went from $33.01 an hour to $41.11 an hour and Santangelo, $30.03 an hour to $36.52 an hour.

McDermott was promoted from a GIS map specialist to an appraiser’s position, which increased his hourly income by $4.13 per hour to $24.15.

“We had several people from the outside apply for the job,” Nicholas said. “He has been a good fit.”

Malacky, Ranttila and Stan all received promotions to new positions, which increased their pay – $5.29 to $38.30 for Malacky; $4.33 to $45.44 for Ranttila; and $5.12 to $27.80 for Stan, according to the records.

Biviano said once the county’s union positions received increases, he felt responsible also to look at the pay rates given to his non-union employees.

“County employees had not received increases for seven years,” Biviano said. “It is best to treat all of our employees with fairness and equitably.”

” I had some employees too, without complaint, do jobs at pay ranges well below coworkers with similar skills,” he continued. “It is only fair to compensate people for the jobs they are doing.”

Watkins said Hoffman’s salary went from $22.48 an hour to $25.84 an hour – a $3.36 increase – because she became his chief office manager after his previous office manager retired.

“Joyce received about a $5,000 a year raise,” he said. “My previous office manager made significantly more money than Joyce is earning today.”

The Prosecutor’s Office has 34 employees. Hourly pay increases averaged just less than 3 percent, although there were some percentage increases of nearly 5 percent. The increases are the first his employees have received in at least two years, Watkins said.

Watkins said how he organizes his office and the financial adjustments he makes are within the budget approved by Trumbull County Common Pleas Court judges.

“I make changes because of retirements or merit considerations,” he said. “I work within the budget I am allocated.”

While it was up to commissioners to make a decision on a sales tax increase, Watkins said cuts to local government funds and increased costs for union contracts and for state services justify a tax increase.

“We are doing more with less,” Watkins said. “My office has done a record number of criminal cases. We have some of the highest number of indictments since we’ve been keeping records. We’re taking more cases through trial. All of this costs.”

Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said he was not aware that some departments had given some employees hourly wage increases, but said the department heads determine how they use the funds they are given.

“These are departments with elected officials directing them,” Cantalamessa said. “We do not have much authority over their budgets. We will revisit their budgets at the end of the year.”

Cantalamessa said the commissioners decided to hold the line by not increasing the sales tax, but only time will tell what could happen.

“If at all possible, we would like to keep the line,” he said. “That will depend on what kind of state and federal cuts that may happen in the future.”