Westmoreland County elected officials to get cost-of-living pay raises
By Rich Cholodofsky
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Westmoreland County's elected officials will see more money in their paychecks starting in January.
Commissioners and row officers will earn a 2.16 percent raise as part of automatic cost-of-living adjustments that have been in place since 1996.
Charles Anderson, chairman of the board of commissioners, will earn more than $1,600 extra next year, bringing his annual salary to $77,940.
Commissioners Tyler Courtney and Ted Kopas will see raises of $1,592 in 2013, taking their annual salaries to $75,167 in 2013.
“I'll give it to charity. That's what I did last year,” Anderson said.
Courtney, who is completing his first-term in office, said he too will donate his raise to charity.
Anderson and Courtney comprise the first Republican majority on the board of commissioners in nearly six decades.
Both said there are no plans to abolish the automatic cost-of-living hikes.
“It's difficult in these economic times to justify automatic raises, but if people are doing their jobs, they should get them,” Courtney said. “I don't see a huge public outcry. If they opposed it, we are open to change it. We would consider it.”
Kopas, the lone Democrat on the board, who has declined past raises, said he is focusing on other county issues, including passage of a budget.
“I haven't thought about this (raise) yet,” Kopas said.
The raises are provided for by an ordinance approved by county commissioners 16 years ago that fixed future annual raises to the Consumer Price Index. The index is set by the Department of Labor and tied to economic conditions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.
The raises will impact every county officeholder.
Register of Wills Michael Ginsburg said he has not decided whether to accept the hike and that the automatic raises should be abolished.
“If the finances for the county are good, a cost-of-living increase is earned. If it is not, we shouldn't be given these raises,” Ginsburg said.
Commissioners next week are expected to pass a final 2013 budget with a deficit. A preliminary spending plan unveiled last month showed expenses outpacing revenues by $16.5 million.
No raises were proposed for nearly 400 nonunion county workers as part of the budget's early draft. A majority of the county's work force will receive up to 3 percent raises as required by their collective bargaining agreements.
Treasurer Jared Squires, who is completing his first-term in office, said he will write a check to the county treasury next month to cover the 3 percent cost-of-living increase he and other elected officials received in January. He said he will write another check next year to pay back the 2013 raise.
“That's what people want from the people they put in office,” Squires said.
Controller Jeff Balzer and Sheriff Jon Held, both elected last year, said they will accept the raise.
“It's standard procedure. Life gets expensive,” Balzer said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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