Saturday, March 12th, 2011
Auditor's budget pared
Commissioners respond to pay raises
By Shelley Grieshop
Mercer County Commissioner Jerry Laffin speaks to members of the Grand Lake Patr. . .
CELINA - County commissioners this week took nearly $10,000 from the auditor's budget in response to raises he gave out this year without their approval.
On Thursday, commissioners approved a resolution to take a total of $9,803 from three accounts used by Mark Giesige to pay his employees.
The action was one of several the commissioners have taken in recent weeks in response to raises distributed by elected and appointed officials who were asked in December to abide by a countywide salary freeze this year. The only raises allowed were for employee promotions, commissioners noted.
Each year, commissioners distribute varying amounts of general fund monies to nearly all 26 county agencies for operating expenses. The elected and appointed officials that head each agency set the salaries for their employees at their own discretion, as stipulated in the Ohio Revised Code.
Commissioner John Bruns said the board's action to decrease Giesige's funds was justified.
"We rescinded the amount of money that was planned for the raises for the balance of the year because he was requested not to give those raises," he said.
Giesige had given more than $20,000 in raises to his workers, commissioners said. They allowed the increases for two workers who were promoted to new classifications, and only took back funds derived from the county's general fund, they said. The auditor's office also is funded through fees for services to the public.
Giesige, a Democrat, retired from the position of auditor on Friday after serving the county for 18 years. He is being replaced by Republican Randy Grapner, who was elected by voters in November.
Giesige said he is unhappy about the steps taken this week by commissioners.
"I do not agree with their action, and this compromise is something the new and coming auditor will have to work with," he said, adding he realizes the commissioners aren't happy either.
In his defense, Giesige said he cut 6 percent from his 2011 budget - even after losing the equivalent of 3 1/2 employees - and felt financially comfortable compensating his workers for their added workload.
Action also has occurred recently in other departments where raises were issued. Juvenile/probate court Judge Mary Pat Zitter rescinded the 1.5 percent salary increases she gave her 12 employees. Wages for 19 county home workers also were voluntarily returned to 2010 status except for those who were under the minimum wage standard.
In January, commissioners took back $7,500 from the board of elections' budget to counter the raises distributed in that office.
County prosecutor Andy Hinders rescinded raises he issued - an average of 2.38 percent - but countered the measure by changing the status of three of his four employees from salaried to hourly. The action is expected to cost the county more this year in extended and overtime hours, commissioners confirmed.
During a meeting of the Grand Lake Patriots on Thursday evening, commissioner Jerry Laffin explained the responsibility he and commissioners Bob Nuding and John Bruns have to keep the county financially healthy.
"Some people calls us the CEOs here, but some things we don't have power over," he said to the crowd of more than 30 people gathered at the fairgrounds in Celina.
Laffin told the Patriots - a conservative group seeking limited government influence - that 71 percent of the county's expenditures goes to wages and benefits for workers. He said the commissioners' goal each year is to have a sufficient carry-over of funds to stay out of debt, he said.
"By law, we have to balance our books each year. We cannot be in the red," he said.
Loud clapping filled the room in response to his reply.