Roughly 90 non-union Luzerne County court branch employees are set to receive raises Friday.
County Court Administrator Michael Shucosky recently discussed the possibility of raises and sent a letter to county Manager Robert Lawton announcing the final plan on April 9. County Council Chairman Rick Morelli was copied on the letter and sent it to council members today.
The timing and rationale for the raises prompted complaints from some county officials.
Roughly 210 non-union employees outside court branches who also have gone six years without compensation increases are not receiving raises and don’t know if they will next year.
Lawton said a compensation study is planned to determine the appropriate market salaries for these 210 workers before pay increases will be considered for them.
According to Shucosky’s letter:
Most of the non-union court employees are set to receive $1,500 increases. Supervisors, department heads and a handful of employees handling increased responsibilities will receive more than $1,500.
The raises will cost $133,795 through the end of this year, which includes increases toward pensions and taxes associated with the higher pay.
The court is funding the expense with $276,810 in budgeted savings from eliminating positions, the delayed filling of positions, “strict spending practices” and other cost savings.
Court officials won’t seek an increase in overall county funding for 2015, he pledged.
Shucosky cited salary increases and other benefits provided to union workers over the past six years as partial justification for the non-union court raises. Some court supervisors are earning “considerably less” than the union employees they oversee, he said.
The morale of the county workforce is at an “all-time low,” with trained and efficient non-union employees leaving for other positions outside county government on a regular basis, he said.
“The employees have been constantly forced to do ‘more with less’ creating a tension filled environment where basic services to the public are not being properly met,” he wrote.
Court officials have completed a comprehensive review over the past six years, resulting in almost 70 staff reductions, he said.
“This has been accomplished by attrition, layoffs, better use of technology, combination of responsibilities and hard work,” he wrote. “All employees work up to the standards demanded for public employees.”
Shucosky took issue with the county’s position that raises can’t be provided because money is “tight,” saying county officials are making a “conscious decision” to “fail to address employee salaries.” He said county officials approved three union contracts with significant salary increases and noted non-court managers have been hired at “significant salaries.”