Luzerne County Employee Raises On Council Agenda Tonight
WILKES-BARRE — Two Luzerne County Council members are proposing changes to the method by which non-unionized county employees receive merit-based raises.
Those ideas, from council Chairman Tim McGinley and Councilwoman Linda McClosky Houck, will be discussed at council’s work session tonight.
Houck requested an item regarding the raises be added to the work session agenda last week, after county Manager David Pedri released details of raises awarded this year to 130 county employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements. The raises, ranging from 1 percent to 3 percent, were based on performance reviews — a system Pedri implemented last year.
The average raise among those employees was 2.48 percent, though that number does not include employees who received no raise at all. Pedri told council the total expense of the raises, $176,268, came in more than $22,000 under the budgeted maximum.
That sent some council members scrambling to figure out how that was possible, since the amount council allotted for the raises during last fall’s budget process was intended to equal 2 percent of the wages for all non-unionized positions included in this year’s budget, according to McGinley.
The answer appears to be that a significant number of those positions were not eligible for merit-based raises. Either the positions are vacant, or filled by employees who received no raise (zero percent), or filled by employees who were hired or promoted last year and are thus ineligible for a raise — a policy Pedri said he decided upon after council adopted this year’s budget in December.
Houck’s proposal for future budgets is to place whatever amount council allocates for employee raises into the county’s reserve fund. Pedri could then ask council to release funds to pay for employee raises after the performance review process is completed, Houck said.
Council has adopted a similar policy when division heads requested funding for budgeted expenses that might or might not be needed, such as payments to expert witnesses in criminal cases, Houck said.
“If you need it, come to us and we will transfer the funds,” she said. “Given what happened this year. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”
McGinley said he wants to see Houck’s proposal in writing before making up his mind.
However, the idea of allotting specific sums of money for raises and other budgeted line items is to eliminate the need for managers to appear before council repeatedly to seek approval, he said.
McGinley’s proposal is to eliminate positions that are not eligible to receive raises when calculating the pool of money available overall.
For example, this year that would have taken vacant positions and positions held by employees who were hired or promoted last year out of consideration when determining how much council allotted for raises.
“That has an effect on the pool of money,” McGinley said.
McGinley said he expects “there will be more clarity going forward” about funding for raises in future county budgets.
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