Elected officials spoke against a proposed new position in the commissioner’s office, and at least postponed its creation.
The salary board, made up of all three commissioners Barry Hayman, Paul Heimel, Nancy Grupp and Treasurer Krista Miller, convened March 9 to decide whether to create another position in the administrative office and set the salary. The board voted against creating the position with Heimel and Miller opposed, Hayman in favor and Grupp abstaining.
Before that, several row officers spoke at length against the proposed action.
Prothonotary Kathy Schroeder said she had been unsuccessful in trying to add a position in her office and was told another full-time position was not feasible.
She questioned how, following the purchase of a time clock to reduce the time spent figuring paper time sheets, the county is reportedly a year behind.
Other elected row officers and department heads, she said, help their staff, come in early, stay late and work through lunch to get the work done.
“How do you think you can do whatever you want as commissioners when the rest of the county offices struggle to keep up day by day. You should be really ashamed of how spend tax dollars are spent,” Schoeder said, ending her comments to a round of applause.
Michael Pepper, director of veterans affairs, said he has also requested additional staff due to more work from the PACT Act, which expands VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances. Since the law went into effect in October 2022, his office has 58 claims pending submission, 32 claims awaiting adjudication, two claims before veterans appeals, six claims for appeals, not including the other work.
Several speakers noted that staff in the commissioners office received pay increases, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 annually. Most county employees, who are working under a union contract, receive less, said speakers. Department heads’ efforts to increase wages have been unsuccessful, with commissioners noting that the salaries are set by contract.
“We’re asked to do more and more and more with less and less and less and that is not what is going on in your office,” said one person.
A union steward suggested that instead of creating a new position, the county fill an empty union position, a multi-function clerk, noting that the job descriptions are similar.
During the salary board discussion, commissioners rebutted several of the comments made.
The commissioners said the multi-function clerk doesn’t fit the needs of the commissioner’s office.
Potter County is the only county in the state that does not require employees to contribute to their benefits, said Grupp. During the last negotiations, the county offered to increase wages in exchange for employees contributing something toward their benefits but was turned down.
Hayman noted that the administrative office staff are not “commissioner’s employees” but work for everyone in the county.
“They are all of your employees because they make sure your bills are paid. They make sure the paychecks are out in time. If there are complaints from your department when a printer doesn’t work, they respond,” Hayman said.