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Some elected officials to give back raises

December 18, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Several Franklin County elected officials said Thursday they will give back their 3 percent cost-of-living increases for 2009, but returning the money to county coffers is more of a math problem than it seems.

"It's a moral and ethical mandate in my mind," Treasurer David Secor said. "These are hard times ... It behooves us to share in that, the same as the people who put us in office."

The Board of County Commissioners set the 2009 increase for elected officials in 2007, Commissioner Bob Thomas said. Under county code, the salaries of elected officials have to be set prior to a county election, he said.

The increase cannot be voted away, Thomas said.

"They have to take it," Thomas said. Those planning to return the increase essentially will be making a donation to the county by writing out a check, he said.

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Thomas said he and Commissioners David Keller and Bob Ziobrowski will announce what they plan to do with their increases following the Jan. 5 reorganization meeting. The commissioners were paid $65,362 this year.

Secor and most other row officers were paid $59,124 this year. A 3 percent increase would result in their gross pay going up $1,773, but the higher salaries will be taxed and their pension contributions will increase.

Along with higher medical deductions, their net pay will go up less than 3 percent.

Secor, a retired Pennsylvania state trooper, said he receives medical benefits through the state, but elected officials with spouses and dependents receiving county benefits could see costs increase to more than $200 every two weeks.

"Our medical went up 20 percent ... a lot more than what my raise is going to be," said Sheriff Dane Anthony, who placed himself in the undecided column as to returning the increase.

"I don't mind taking a hit on the health insurance, but I don't want to take a hit on the taxes and retirement," said Clerk of Courts William Vandrew, who will return his raise.

Absorbing the hit from the insurance increase means, he said, "I'm probably going to lose money next year."

"I'm not prepared to say one way or the other," said District Attorney John F. Nelson, who makes $156,441 this year. His 2009 salary and 2.8 percent increase are set by the state, which also pays much of his salary.

"I'm not sure what the ramifications would be because of the state contribution," Nelson said.

Controller Carol Diller and Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner said they will have the Human Resources Department figure out their net increase in 2009 and refund that to the county.

Allen Piper, president of Citizens for Responsible Government, said he has been asking the commissioners to "do the honorable thing" and forgo their increase.

Increases in wages for county employees are set annually by the Board of Commissioners. They will receive a 4 percent increase next year.

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