HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Blair County Salary Board is considering a request from the county's six magisterial district judges seeking $2,500 raises for each of the 20 employees in their offices.
The $50,000 request presented Monday to the salary board was tabled until the board's August meeting.
Commissioner Terry Tomassetti said he wanted more time to look into the cost. Commissioner Donna Gority said it may be difficult to find the money to cover the expense.
Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner told the salary board that the women working in the six magisterial district judges' offices are classified on the county's schedule as Legal Secretary I, a title bestowed in 1984.
Their duties have changed significantly since then, especially with the introduction of computerized record management and the state's most recent upgrade, Aigner said. She said the employees also process payments collected at their offices.
"These women actually run a court system ... and do just about anything else that's necessary," Aigner said.
President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva added her support for reclassifying the district court employees as district court administrative staff.
"The computer is great in some ways, but it has added a layer of complexity," Kopriva said.
"I don't think there's any question on the reclassification," Tomassetti said. "But I want some more information first from the finance director."
Aigner estimated that the county saved $51,177 by closing the magisterial district judge's office last held by Joseph L. Moran, who died in late 2009.
His office remained open until November when his cases were divided between Magisterial District Judges Todd F. Kelly and Jeffrey P. Auker.
Aigner said the closing of that office helped the county eliminate one job, plus benefits, and save operating expenses.
"I think those savings have already been taken into account and absorbed in the 2011 budget," Gority said after the meeting.
Controller Richard J. Peo said after the meeting that he would be more inclined to consider the measure if the raise was scaled back, but couldn't name a figure.
"I'm not sure how much. ... I just know there isn't anybody in the county who is getting a 12 to 13 percent raise this year," Peo said.
The women who work in the district court offices earn annual salaries ranging from the starting salary of $13,195 to $28,895 for an employee with 31 years service.
Aigner said her research shows Blair County starting pay is the lowest of the state's fifth-class counties. The average pay for these employees, she said, is $7,000 below the average pay in other counties.
"We're low for a reason," Peo said. "We can't afford it."
Peo also suggested that the request may belong at the bargaining table, and if it's granted, then the union will use it to pursue raises on behalf of other groups of employees.
"I could be totally wrong, but to me, if this is granted, then it puts [the union] in a better bargaining position," he said.
Gority said she would disagree because the district court employees are "a very specific group with a very specific change in circumstances."
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.