By Rick Dandes and Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
Northumberland County elected officials — from commissioners to row officers — could be making only $18,000 annually beginning in 2016, cuts of 71 percent in salary in some cases.
The suggestion, approved Tuesday by Commissioners Steve Bridy and Vinny Clausi, could save taxpayers $2.3 million over the course of four years. Bridy and Clausi voted in favor Tuesday of studying the idea of lowering the salaries and
eliminating health benefits for elected positions.
Commissioner Rick Shoch voted against the motion, saying he wasn’t made aware the other two commissioners were discussing the idea and the motion was brought up at the last minute at Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.
Bridy raised the motion under new business and said Clausi was unaware of his plan, but was happy he agreed.
“That was one of my biggest platforms when I ran for office,” said Bridy, in his second year. “Now that Mr. Clausi is looking at this, I hope I have the support I need.”
The salaries of Clausi, Bridy and Shoch combine for approximately $255,000 per year, which includes benefits.
“I find it odd that last year, a few months after I was elected as commissioner, Vinny and I had a conversation in which he said they needed to look at increasing row officers’ salaries,” Shoch said. “Clausi said they had not had a salary increase in some time and he was concerned that they might lose good people. Now, Vinny might deny that we had this conversation, but I stand by it.”
$550G among row officers
Total salaries of all the row officers, excluding the district attorney, figures to be around $550,000, which also includes health benefits.
Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini earns $172,000, but the county contributes only a small portion of his salary, Clausi said.
Bridy said the county needs to follow in its own footsteps and reduce elected officials’ salaries following the cutting of 135 jobs over the past six years.
“This is more shenanigans on the part of Mr. Clausi and Mr. Bridy,” Shoch said. “They’re acting out like children. It’s a typical maneuver on their part. They’re trying to get at me, acting out in frustration, lashing out at row officers, because they’ve being caught in a series of misleading statements. ”
Clausi agreed with Bridy in that it is now time for county leaders to accept the financial burden placed on other workers.
While the current minimum pay for county elected officials is $18,000, which includes a $25,000 benefit package, three row officers earn a salary of $53,834.
“We need to end the career politicians,” Bridy said. “This is a part-time job and we can’t keep burdening the taxpayers.”
Pennsylvania sets no requirements on the amount of hours an elected official must work, Clausi said, but counties determine the pay scale.
Asked Bridy: “How many times have you walked into a row office and the elected official is nowhere to be found? There are some that are here every day and you can take (county Controller) Tony Phillips, for example, because he is there all the time and he is always available. Some of the row officers need to be paid for what they do.”
Each office — treasurer, coroner, prothonotary, sheriff and register and recorder — would be evaluated, Bridy said.
“There has to be fairness,” he said. “I am a firm believer that for too long our row officers have been elected or appointed by the same party that the elected official is. There seems to be a pattern where someone retires late term and gets appointed by the same party and the same party holds the office for decades. The era of buying a vote in Northumberland County is over.”
If the county were to reduce the salaries and eliminate the health benefits of every office and of all three commissioners, the total savings would be $2.3 million over four years, Clausi said.
The only office that can’t be touched is that of the district attorney, which is controlled by the state.
On Tuesday, the county eliminated two jury commissioner positions, which saves about $200,000 over the course of four years.
Under a new law signed Monday by Gov. Tom Corbett, most Pennsylvania counties, including Northumberland, were granted the authority to eliminate the office.
The legislation was approved by the House last month after passing the Senate just a week before. The bill won the support of every member of the county’s state delegation.
The law eliminated the need for voters to elect two jury commissioners of different parties to develop procedures to create jury lists, ensure jurors are picked fairly and manage the jury pool.