Chesterton Tribune



County employees to get longevity pay; auditor gets $30k to pay consultant bills

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In spite of a shortage in casino fund revenues, Porter County employees are set to receive their second installment of longevity pay this year, with the County Commissioners’ help.

The Commissioners offered to transfer $160,000 from their PERF budget and $20,000 in the FICA budgets into longevity. The move was approved Tuesday night on a 7-0 vote by the County Council.

According to the pay scale, longevity payments start after a full-time county employee has been with the county for three years of service, at which time $225 is added to their salary.

The next raise happens after the employee has reached five years with an addition of $375 and the scale continues to rise in five year increments -- $750 after 10 years, $1,125 for 15 years, $1,500 for 20 years, $1,875 for 25 years, and maxes out at thirty years with $2,250.

County employees received their first pay out for 2014 earlier this year of $179,250 once the county’s share of casino funds from the state of about $400,000 were received. That amount however was not enough to fund the second longevity payment.

The Council decided in June to go to the Commissioners about funding a second draw. County Budget and Financial Specialist Vicki Urbanik said they found a way to distribute longevity in the Commissioners’ budget using FICA and PERF.

Auditor debts to be paid

The Council agreed unanimously on nearly all the requests made Tuesday by department heads, with the exception of County Auditor Robert Wichlinski’s petition to use $45,000 from the Auditor’s non-reverting fund to cover contractual obligations for the rest of the year, including work Wichlinski hoped to get done in December.

Wichlinski has made requests throughout the year to pay consultants which, more often than not, have been shot down by the Council. The auditor’s spending on consultants has come under fire from some Council members, despite Wichlinski’s claims that they have brought in more money from recovered homestead credit fraud than what they are being paid.

Wichlinski said he wished to have all bills paid up by the end of the year to make matters easier on auditor-elect Urbanik when she takes office in January.

“My goal here is to have everything clean and buttoned up,” Wichlinski said.

Urbanik told the Council she would like “no lingering obligations including work that needs to be paid for in the month of December.”

The Council voted down the request for $45,000 with a split vote of 4-3. Voting against were Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, and members Sylvia Graham, D-at large, Robert Poparad, D-at large, and Karen Conover, R-3rd.

Voting in favor were Council members Jim Biggs, R-1st, Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and Jim Polarek, R-4th.

The Council however was more favorable toward paying what is currently owed. Wichlinski said about $5,000 is owed to Hannon and Hannon, which is investigating homestead violators; $5,000 to DRD for scanning services; $5,000 to $10,000 for Cender and Company, which is helping with accounting; and $5,000 to Burke, Constanza and Carberry, which is representing the Auditor in real estate and appeal cases.

Also requested was a transfer of $5,000 in the non-reverting fund from office supplies to pay for tablet devices used by staff.

Poparad said if Wichlinski tells his consultants “to stay home” this month, the County will not have to worry about paying bills for December.

Wichlinski said that he was expecting an additional intake of $60,000 this next month in tax settlements from work done by consultants.

A motion made by Conover to pay the outstanding bills of $30,000 was met with a 7-0 vote. The vote on the transfer for $5,000 saw a split 5-2 vote in favor of the request. Dissenting were Graham and Rivas.

The non-reverting fund currently has $323,816 in it. Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, sitting in on the meeting, said he thought state law would only permit the non-reverting to hold a maximum $100,000 and anything over that would revert to the County General Fund.

Council Attorney Scott McClure said the fund can hold more than $100,000 if the funds are approved by the County Council for the purpose of going after homestead credit fraud.

Biggs said it should be pointed out that the Wichlinski is not spending money at his will. All funds expended have had the previous approval of the County Council.

Urbanik said she plans to bring a revised 2015 Auditor’s budget before the Council at the start of next year.

Animal Shelter

Also, the Council approved transfers of nearly $36,000 in total to pay part-time personnel at the Animal Shelter through the end of the year.

Most of what was transferred came out of the budgeted salary for an assistant director, who has since left the Shelter. The position has been vacant for quite some time, according to Shelter Director Jon Thomas.

The Shelter budgeted for four full-time employees and currently is operating with three, along with an abundance of part-time workers to cover without an assistant director.

The part-time budget is currently running in the red by more than $4,000, Thomas said, and the Shelter is still relying heavily on those workers.

Volunteer numbers have subsided substantially as well, Thomas said. The most he’s seen on weekends are five or fewer, sometimes none during the week.

“I wish we had more,” he said.

The shelter has been looking for a new assistant director, Thomas told the Council, but there hasn’t been much interest. The position currently pays a salary of roughly $36,000.

Whitten encouraged Thomas to post the position through local newspapers.

Next meeting

The Council will convene for a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 15, at 5 p.m., to consider health plan costs.



Posted 12/4/2014




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