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Probation officers get pay hikes

June 29, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In an effort to reduce turnover in the Franklin County Probation Department, the County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a new pay schedule that will take effect July 1.

"We want to look at areas where we're having difficulty with hiring or difficulty with retention," Commissioner Cheryl Plummer said after Tuesday's vote.

County Director of Human Resources John Aquirre said the department had a 20 percent turnover in 1998 and had lost officers to other counties this year, as well.

The commissioners abolished the position of probation officer trainee, which paid $9.73 an hour. Instead, starting wages for officers with up to three years of experience will be $11.26 an hour.

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Starting wages for officers with four to seven years experience was raised to $12.42 an hour and officers with eight or more years of experience will have starting salaries of $13.70 an hour.

"Now we're in line with Adams County. We're never going to catch up with Cumberland County," said Chief Probation Officer Richard Mertz. "They'll keep raiding us."

"They're in and they're out," Aquirre said of young probation officers who are lured to other counties by higher pay.

Aquirre said other Fifth Class counties in Pennsylvania were surveyed to determine what they paid their probation officers. Other counties paid more.

Even though Adams County is a Sixth Class county, Mertz said probation officers there will still make more than their peers in Franklin after the adjustment, but the difference will be "hundreds of dollars instead of thousands of dollars."

"We don't need to be the highest. We need to be competitive," Aquirre said.

The starting salaries of supervisors were raised, also - from about $1,500 to $2,500 a year, depending on their position, according to Aquirre.

Mertz said the raises affect 39 officers in the adult and juvenile probation programs. The major concern was retaining "quality people" to manage intense supervision, house arrest, electronic monitoring and other programs, he said.

President Judge John R. Walker agreed. He said an effective probation department with alternative programs lessens the burden on the county prison.

The department is moving into new offices later this year at the former state police barracks on Walker Road.

Plummer said the county is looking at other areas in which hiring and retention are a problem.

"Case managers in human services is another area where we're having serious problems." she said. Children and Youth Services is five short of the 15 case workers it needs.

In that department, the problem is statewide, she said.

"We may find salaries are not the issue. It may be heavy caseloads" or other factors, Plummer said.

Aquirre said salaries are "a living, breathing thing" that need to be examined continually.

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