Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 21, 2014

Supervisors consider pay raise for Sue Rich

By Linda Wenger | Jan 18, 2013

In the midst of a budget discussion Wednesday, Washington County supervisor Steve Davis said, “I hate this time of year.”
Davis made the statement in the midst of a debate about a $2-per-hour merit pay increase for the county’s veterans service officer Sue Rich.
The Washington County Veterans Affairs (VA) commissioners Terry Philips, Darren Dennler and Jeff Johnston, and Rich met with the Washington County Board of Supervisors, Wednesday, Jan. 16, to discuss the VA budget for fiscal year 2013-14 during a board work session.
Three of the five county supervisors were present when the debate began — Davis, Jack Seward and Bob Yoder. Supervisor Stan Stoops arrived late to the work session and Bennett was absent.
Philips told the supervisors that Rich has been employed by the county for 23 years. She works six hours per week as the director of General Assistance and 24 hours per week for Veterans Affairs.  Philips said that Rich has not had a merit pay raise in the 10 years she has been director of Veterans Affairs. He also said she works more than 24 hours a week for veterans.
During that time, Philips said Rich has decreased the county’s tax dollars for veterans’ services and increased the amount of federal tax funds coming into the county for the county’s veterans. A supporting chart shows that county tax funds fell from a high of nearly $13,100 down to $4,247 over the past five years.  The high came in 2010 and the low in 2012. The total in 2011 was about $9,932.
Another chart indicates that total expenditures for federal VA expenditures in Washington County between 2001 and 2011, have increased from $1.04 million to $7.915 million in 2011. The number of veterans in the county in 2001 was 1,728; in 2011, 1,433.
Commissioners Dennler and Johnston also spoke highly of Rich’s performance.
Dennler, who is a sheriff’s deputy, pointed out that the sheriff deputies have step and longevity increases. He said Rich does not have a similar pay scale.
Davis said that a $2 per hour increase “is not realistic.” He said the board of supervisors’ directive for wage and salary increases for county employees allowed for a 2 percent increase. He said he wasn’t “cutting Sue down.”
Davis said he didn’t want to cut services for veterans in order to find the funds for a pay increase.
Philips said that services for veterans wouldn’t be cut, that there are state funds that cover at least a portion of administrative costs.
When Philips continued pressing for a raise for Rich, Davis said, “I hate this time of year.”
Seward and Yoder are going through the county budget meetings for the first time as supervisors. Yoder asked if the county has a growing number of veterans and he said there are probably a lot of veterans older than 60.
Rich said that the number of veterans are increasing. While trying to find enough veterans for the Washington County Honor Flight in September, she found veterans that she didn’t know about. She also said that there are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from
Washington County.
Seward said he is a Vietnam veteran. He said Rich’s hourly wage currently is $20.16 per hour. He told the commissioners they made a good case for a raise.
When Stoops arrived about 45 minutes into the meeting, he asked to be updated. After hearing the summary of the meeting, Stoops identified himself as a veteran. He said he is familiar with the VA offices in Henry and Johnson counties and that Rich’s performance is “second to none.” He also said her integrity is second to none.
Rich told the supervisors that she does not earn as much as a deputy or secretary employed by the county. She also said that the previous board of supervisors approved a mid-year raise for an employee of the Environmental Health Department because she could earn more money in another job. She said the supervisors approved a raise so they could keep the employee in the county. She said that when she asked the former board of supervisors for a raise, they told her that if she wanted an increase, she could find a different job.
Stoops also said that the former board of supervisors rebuked Rich for wanting a raise in the past. He said the former supervisors wanted the “limelight” when it came to supporting the veterans, but that it was a political ruse because the former board of supervisors would not increase Rich’s wages.
Stoops, who is also going through his first budgeting process, asked Davis what he pays attention to during the work sessions.
Davis said that Stoops needs to put his status as a veteran aside.
“I’m looking at the whole picture,” Davis said.
He also said he is sticking to the directive and he said Bennett would likely stick with the directive, too.
By the end of the meeting, Seward and Yoder said they could support a $1 per hour merit pay raise for Rich.
Philips said he would come up with two new budget options and return to the board to continue the process.
The supervisors cannot make a formal decision during a work session but, as Yoder said, the supervisors try to arrive at an informal consensus so that the elected officials and department heads can revise their budget requests, if need be. The supervisors will hold additional work sessions through Jan. 30.

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