LEWISTOWN - The Mifflin County Commissioners voted to increase the pay of the county's elected officials beginning in 2016 at a meeting Wednesday night.
The pay increases do not take effect until each county official leaves office or wins re-election thereby preventing the officials from directly raising their own pay.
The meeting came about because there has been an eight-year freeze on raises, and the commissioners cannot vote on a raise during an election year for themselves, explained Chairman Mark Sunderland.
"If we would freeze the wages again, it would last another four years," Sunderland said. "This raise has to be across the board for those elected. They are tied together as part of the county code."
Lisa Nancollas, of Lewistown, questioned the move asking why elected officials are getting a raise when people are getting laid off and taxes are increasing throughout the county. The commissioners said this would not affect taxes for 2014 and reiterated the increase will not take effect until 2016.
Commissioner Kevin Kodish said Mifflin County is last in the state in salary of similar counties in population and also reiterated the statement that regardless of the increase, it will be the same across the board.
Nancollas said Mifflin County is "probably dead last" in every other industry regarding salaries, so an increase should not only apply to the elected officials.
Sunderland asked those officials to speak their minds and voice their opinions on whether there should be a pay increase.
Treasurer-elect Deb Civitts said she believes there should be an increase in salaries, which was the sentiment among the other elected officials in attendance. They felt elected officials, especially those who work in the court house, are doing more work than before and should get a raise while also taking into account the general cost of living.
Many said they are being paid less than those they supervise because those jobs have tie-ins with unions. The union wages have increased by 3 percent each of the past four years.
"I cannot sit here in good conscious without raising the pay," Sunderland said. "Raising the pay is the right thing to do and if we get it when we are re-elected, so be it."
Kodish then began the process of determining how much to raise salaries by reading the trends from previous years. This trend shows that after each freeze the percent was higher for the first year coming back than that of the rest of the years. Based on the trend of having a 16 or 15 percent increase, Kirk suggested a 15 percent increase for 2016 followed by a 3.5 percent increase for 2017 through 2019. Sunderland said he would like to see a more conservative increase, but he continued to say he would vote for a pay increase if a motion to vote came to the table.
Kodish suggested a 1.25 percent increase each year for 2016 to 2019, with an additional increase in 2016 of 1.25 percent times the eight years there was no increase, bringing the total amount to 11.25 percent. A motion to this effect was made and passed.
Before adjourning the meeting, Sunderland said this motion may not be liked by everyone, but he said he believes it is the right thing to do.