Preview of Monroe County Council Meeting 2015-11-10

2015 Monroe County Council
2015 Monroe County Council

The packet and agenda for today’s regular meeting of the Monroe County Council is now available: Council_Packet_20151110.

The following are the major substantive items on the agenda:

  • The Recorder has two requests:
    • To freeze the 2016 salary as a high outlier for one of the Deputy Recorders. This issue has a complicated history. The Monroe County compensation system defines a salary range for each job classification. Employees start at the minimum of the range, and move up to the midpoint of the range after 3 years of service. However, employees who supervise others in their own classification receive salaries equivalent to the maximum of the range (in order to create a pay differential between the supervisor and their supervisees). These employees who supervise others in their classification and receive the maximum of the salary range are called in-grade supervisors. This policy has proved problematic for a number of reasons, and received a lot of scrutiny over the past couple of years.
    • The Recorder’s office had 4 staff, including one who was being paid as an in-grade supervisor (as well as elected Recorder and his chief deputy). When the new Recorder took office this year, as part of his reorganization plan for the office, he requested a series of desk audits for all positions. As a result, he eliminated one of the 4 staff positions, and requested job description changes for the others, to essentially eliminate any specialization and make them all Deputy Recorders. The management in the office would be provided by the Recorder and Chief Deputy Recorder. The purpose of this reorganization was to have all staff cross-trained in all functions of the office.
    • However, since one employee had been classified as an in-grade supervisor, that employee’s salary would actually be reduced once all employees’ job descriptions were unified. In order to avoid reducing an employee’s salary resulting from a classification decision, the Recorder is requesting that that employee be made a high-outlier. If the Council approves this, it means that the employee’s salary would be frozen and he will not receive any annual cost of living adjustments until the pay for the classification “catches up” to the employee’s actual pay. This has been done in the past by the Council, as an alternative to actually reducing an employee’s pay resulting from reclassification decisions.
    • The Recorder is proposing to pay for the difference between the employee’s actual (frozen) salary and what the salary would be if it were reduced to the midpoint of the classification out of the Recorder’s Perpetuation Fund, so this decision would have no impact on the General Fund.
    • The Recorder is also requesting amend the salary ordinance to include a salary for part-time/hourly employees. A salary ordinance is required to pay any employee, full or part-time. For some reason, the Recorder’s Office has never had a salary ordinance for hourly part-time employees (going back, presumably for many years). This request is to correct this omission.
  • Veterans Affairs is requesting approval of a new job description for the County Veterans Service Officer (CVSO) and upgrading of the position from a PAT (Professional, Administrative, Technological series) II to a PAT III. Our current CVSO (Larry Catt) is retiring, and the County is working with him on reclassifying the position upward, based on the increased demands of the position. During 2016 budget hearings, the Council already moved this position from part-time to full-time (40 hours), and recommended that the position description be modified and that the new description be sent to our classification consultant for reclassification. The recommendation was to classify the position upward one grade, based on new requirements, many of them highly technical and specialized. The Veterans Affairs department has seen many new and different needs for its services (including many new veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan), and these position upgrades represent a major increase in the services that we are able to provide our veterans.
  • The Auditor is requesting that an increase in the maximum hourly wage passed at the last work session be made retroactive, as the request was to increase the wage was delayed for the convenience of the Council
  • The Sheriff is requesting that the Council approve an amendment to the Monroe County Police Retirement Plan. The two primary changes are (1) to change the vesting schedule from 8 years to 10 years (i.e., a deputy will not be eligible for any pension benefits upon retirement unless they have at least 10 years of service with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department) and (2) to eliminate the loophole that allowed employees to be 100% vested in their pension when they turned 55 regardless of number of years of service. My council colleague Ryan Cobine made the following comments on the Herald Times Online comments section the other day, which is a better summary of the issue than I could provide, so I’ll just quote him here:
    • My understanding of why Sheriff Swain brought these proposed changes to both the merit board and the county council, along with correcting some general issues of equity, was to reign in the potential for runaway costs in the future while simultaneously concentrating the benefit to career deputies. As was noted in the HT article, pension plans with overly lax eligibility requirements can put financial stress on a county budget, and therefore onto the services provided to a county.One concern discussed by the county council with the ten-year vestment, specifically for the elected office of sheriff, is that it will make the office of Sheriff differ from all other county elected offices restricted to two terms regarding when an office holder becomes eligible for full retirement benefits. Currently, that is after eight years for all county elected officials restricted to two terms. The concern here is one of fairness—why effectively exclude a two-term office holder for sheriff from a pension benefit when all other term limited office holders will receive one?

      Another, related concern, which came up briefly in the council’s work session discussion of this, is explained well in this excerpt from a recent Association of Indiana Counties publication:

      Some of the parties expressed worry that this plan will deter individuals from running for sheriff unless they already have multiple years within the department. While the county does not want to discourage “non­ police” individuals from running, the long-run projected cost savings were significant enough to counter-balance those concerns. (“Fiscally Responsible Compromises on Sheriffs’ Pension Costs: A Case in Point”, by Adam Johnson, INDIANA NEWS 92 September/October 2015,

      The concern in this case is one of treating potential external candidates for sheriff (a citizen candidate with no previous, professional law enforcement employment experience) equally to internal candidates (those who do have professional law enforcement experience with the county).

      My sense, based on the October 27 council work session where Sheriff Swain explained these proposals, is that the council will support the proposals, with the change of making the office of Sheriff vest in eight years to be in line with other term-limited county elected offices.

    • The only gloss on this explanation that I’d add is that I don’t think the Council is promoting candidates for Sheriff with no professional law enforcement experience — at least, I’m not. The issue is whether to create an even playing field for candidates who aren’t specifically internal to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
  • The Sheriff is also requesting several additional appropriations and a transfer from one category to another, on behalf of the Correctional Center. The transfer request is for $14K from General Maintenance Repair services to Operational Supplies. The additional appropriations total $145K ($75K from the General Fund and $70K from the Misdemeanant Fund), all to supplement increased overtime pay resulting from the new collective bargaining arrangement with the Corrections Officers. There will likely be some pushback against this request, and councilors have already expressed significant concern about the dramatic increases in jail overtime costs. Jail staff have already agreed, during budget hearings, to put in place some management practices to reduce overtime for the 2016 budget year.
  • The Treasurer’s request for a salary ordinance amendment to upgrade her Financial/Cash Book position from a PAT II to a PAT IV (increase in salary from $35,793 to $40,286) is receiving a second reading. This upgrade has been discussed extensively and has gone through many revisions. The request passed 6-1 at the work session in October. However, by statute if the decision at the first reading is not unanimous, there must be a second reading (actually the rule is a little more complicated than that, but it isn’t particularly relevant to this case).
  • The Prosecutor is requesting the appropriation of a $47,202 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant for 3 part-time victim assistance positions.
  • The County Council office is proposing a resolution that would officially document existing practices for funding benefits as a percentage of salaries. The purpose is to address a State Board of Accounts audit comment that we did not have such a policy in place. However, it is likely that this item will be pulled from the agenda and discussed at the next work session, as there are still several policy issues to be worked out.

Incidentally, this will be the first County Council meeting of new District 4 councilor Eric Spoonmore. Spoonmore was elected in a Democratic party caucus last night to replace councilor Rick Dietz, who moved out of the district. Welcome, Eric!

Eric Spoonmore Being Sworn In by City Clerk Regina Moore
Eric Spoonmore Being Sworn In by City Clerk Regina Moore

As always, the meeting is open to the public, and will be held this evening (November 10, 2015) at 5:30 in the Nat U Hill room of the Monroe County Courthouse, and it will be broadcast on CATS. Public comment will be taken. Hope to see you there!

2 thoughts on “Preview of Monroe County Council Meeting 2015-11-10

  1. Thanks for this summary of the meaty subjects on the Council’s agenda tonight. I for one am grateful that Sheriff Swain raised the issue of pensions to folks who retire from one law enforcement entity (at a handsome level) and are paid and invested handsomely in a second. These are not folks who are in danger of being impoverished in their old age – that’s what these public pension funds are for and to reward PUBLIC SERVICE. All employees of government serve the public – often have to endure unfair criticism and low wages and overwork to do so. I have observed the practice of retiring and then getting handsome salaries and pensions for the same job in another jurisdiction in other states and cities, and have been concerned about its impact on state and local government budgets. I am sure there are nuances to hammering a policy out, but I for one am in support of the Sheriff’s proposal.

    Secondly, I appreciate the concern and thought going into the other proposals for the Recorder’s, Auditor’s, Treasurer’s, and Veterans Affairs offices. I believe very strongly in doing our best to ensure that folks who serve the public are able to sustain themselves on the wages we taxpayers and citizens pay them for that work.

    Thirdly, thank you for being my county council rep and sharing with me what’s going on!


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