WILKES-BARRE — Up to 180 non-union Luzerne County employees would receive 3 percent raises next year under the proposed 2018 general fund operating budget, county Manager C. David Pedri said Wednesday.
County council will discuss the proposal, which also includes a 2 percent tax hike and the creation of 16 new positions, during several work sessions before its Dec. 12 budget adoption.
The raises would cost the general fund $163,425, Pedri said. It was part of a $600,000 labor cost increase cited in his Tuesday night budget summary, with the remaining portion earmarked for union raises mandated by collective bargaining agreements, he said.
Additional costs for the non-union raises — the exact tally wasn’t immediately available — will be funded by the state and other outside funding sources that cover most or all of the staffing expenses in various departments, including human services, Pedri said.
Pedri said he requested money for raises because the 180 employees did not receive an increase in 2017.
Raises were granted in 2016, after an eight-year freeze, based on an outside analysis concluding the compensation was below industry standards, Pedri said. Those increases cost $700,000, records show.
Unlike the 2016 raises, the ones Pedri is proposing for 2018 will be merit-based and tied to performance evaluations scheduled to be completed this year, he said.
Depending on their reviews, some employees may receive nothing, he said, noting any leftover funding would be moved into the county reserve fund.
Pedri maintained the county must stay on top of compensation for non-union workers, particularly for those who supervise union employees who receive raises most years under collective bargaining agreements. Recruiting supervisors was an issue at the prison and in some other departments in the past due to compensation at or below that of rank-and-file employees, he said.
“We have to make sure we advance them together to retain the talent we have trained,” said Pedri.
His request does not include raises for non-union workers in court branches or the controller and district attorney’s offices, which are not under his direct control. Pedri said requests were not submitted for non-union increases in these departments.
Included in Pedri’s proposal was a raise for one employee he does not supervise — council clerk Sharon Lawrence. His budget allocates $42,024 for the council clerk position in 2018, and Lawrence currently receives $40,800 annually, records show.
County controller candidate Walter Griffith jumped on that proposed raise in an email to council Wednesday. Griffith said he is questioning how the increase was recommended without public discussion.
The 2 percent real estate tax hike would generate an additional $1.2 million. If it is approved, the county tax bill on a $100,000 property would increase $11.95, from a total of $597.54 to $609.49.