Blair County commissioners vote to keep annual raises

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Most of Blair County’s elected leaders will continue receiving 2 percent annual raises through the 2025, based on a Thursday night vote night by county commissioners.

The unanimous decision means that a commissioner’s annual pay, currently at $69,932, will increase to $80,330 in 2025.

The vote also means that the pay for the register/recorder and prothonotary, currently at $69,001 and $66,322 respectively, will be adjusted to the same amounts in 2022, at $74,690 annually, resulting in a 6.1 percent raise in the prothonotary pay. Thereafter, the 2 percent annual increases will keep the salaries for both posts equal, taking them to $79,261 as of 2025.

The jobs of controller, treasurer, sheriff and coroner, currently at $63,276 annually, will continue increasing annually by 2 percent like the commissioners’ salaries. By 2025, the controller, treasurer, sheriff and coroner will each be earning $72,684.

Under state law, salaries of elected county officials must be set in advance of the election for the next term in office. Thursday’s action will cover those elected in 2019 and 2021.

Commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb said he examined current pay for elected officials in other fifth-class counties and found Blair County’s to be in the middle.

In conducting the meeting, Erb offered no specific recommendation and looked for input from fellow commissioners and row officers who attended.

“I’m not unhappy with the salary,” Controller A.C. Stickel told Erb. “But if I were in the private sector doing the work I’m doing, I would be earning 50 to 100 percent more,” Stickel said.

Erb told Stickel he’s not the only elected official who can say that.

“That’s why they call it public service,” Erb said.

Commissioner Ted Beam Jr., serving his second four-year term in office, said he was aware of the pay when he ran for office and considered it “fair.” Beam also said he thinks a 2 percent annual raise, for office holders from 2022 to 2025, will also be “fair.”

In the 2019 proposed budget, raises for non-union personnel are currently calculated at 3 percent. But the 2019 budget isn’t balanced, and the 3 percent raise remains subject to change.

Commissioner Terry Tomassetti initially suggested taking more time to discuss the 2022 to 2025 salaries, which Erb acknowledged sounds “a long way off.” But after Register/Recorder Mary Ann Bennis and Prothonotary Robin Patton offered their support for a 2 percent annual raise, the commissioners voted in favor of that amount.

Elizabeth Doyle, president judge, whose salary is paid by the state and unaffected by the vote, also encouraged commissioners to take action that would even the prothonotary’s salary with the register/recorder’s salary like they once were.

The inequity developed after commissioners imposed a four-wage freeze in 2008, then resumed 2 percent annual raises starting in 2012. But because the prothonotary post, then held by Carol Newman, wasn’t up for grabs until 2014, her post’s salary remained frozen in 2012 and 2013.

Doyle told commissioners that the posts should carry the same salaries based on the knowledge and expertise needed for each. Bennis added her support for equal salaries and praised Erb, Beam and Tomassetti for addressing the inequity.

Bennis also described 2 percent annual increases from 2022 to 2025 as reasonable.

“Fifty-five million went through my office last year,” Bennis said. “It’s a lot of responsibility for making sure that money is distributed correctly.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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