2012-05-17 / Front Page

Commissioners approve raise, take cut to salary

Board dives in, absorbs first ten percent cut

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners has voted to allow a 7 ½ cent raise to two circuit court employees, while decreasing their own salary and per diems by 10 percent. The action was taken during a recent audit-finance committee meeting.

According to audit-finance committee Chairperson Dan LaFoille, the 11th Circuit Court employees had been scheduled to receive a 30 cent raise – the cost of which was to be split by counties utilizing the court: Schoolcraft, Alger, Luce, and Mackinac. However, Alger and Luce counties decided not to contribute their share of 7 ½ cents per court employee, or $136.50 per employee, per year, according to County Clerk Dan McKinney.

Following their decision, Circuit Court Judge William Carmody proposed to take the raise out of his administrative fund. This move was denied during a recent 11th Circuit Court Committee meeting, explained LaFoille, once again leaving the decision to the county board. Before the commissioners met, Mackinac County had already approved their portion of the raise – 7 ½ cents, he added.

“It will be something of a billing issue, but our treasurer’s office and Ms. (Jill) Maddox (court administrator) and the 11th Circuit Court will work that out to where Alger and Luce are not a part of this, and so they will not get a bill for their portion that we thought that they would offer up,” he said.

According to Commissioner Jerry Zellar, splitting the raise between two counties will not be smooth sailing.

“It’s going to be a paperwork nightmare in the future,” he said. “Social Security, retirement, years down the line … all the hand shake agreements we’ve cleaned up in the last few years, this is adding to it now.” Zellar also commented on the fact that the county is making pay cuts and asking departments to cut their budgets by 10 percent, yet handing out a raise. LaFoille noted that this same 30 cent raise was given to every other employee, both union and non-union, early this year. The two circuit court employees will be the last to receive a raise, and will only be getting 15 cents, he added.

Zellar was the sole “no” vote, and the board passed Schoolcraft County’s portion of the raise.

The commissioners also addressed the recent memorandum sent to county department heads asking them to reduce their budgets by 10 percent.

“I think we all realize that each department is not going to be able to achieve that goal, for various reasons,” said LaFoille. “However, as county commissioners, we are a department, so we are being asked to do the same thing.”

Commissioners proposed cutting their per diems and salary by 10 percent. According to LaFoille, this would amount to approximately $700-750 per commissioner, per year. While the commissioners are not required to make the decision to cut 2013 salary and per diems until September, per state law, LaFoille explained he wanted the public to be aware of the cut.

“We thought it was more fair to address it now, because of all the individuals showing interest in running for office,” he said. “So that they would know that a 10 percent reduction for these two categories are, in fact, in place.”

The board also agreed to cut the per diems offered to commissioners who attend LMAS (Luce, Mackinac, Alger, Schoolcraft County) Health Department and Hiawatha Behavioral Health Department meetings.

“Keep in mind that the commissioners have not had a raise since 2002,” said Zellar. “We actually took a 20 percent hit on our per diems three years ago.”

Since current salaries and per diems cannot be cut for elected officials, commissioners unanimously approved the 10 percent reduction to go into place Jan. 1, 2013

“Right now in the budget, the per diems amount to $4,000 a year,” he said. “Each meeting that we go to, that we charge for, when we run out of that $4,000 currently, we’re done. Whatever we do is for free. I have, and several of us, have been doing that for quite some time.”

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