The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

January 25, 2013

City nixes official’s pay hike request

SHENANGO VALLEY — Hermitage commissioners on Wednesday voted down a request to increase the salary of the elected treasurer and tax collector.

Messages left with the official, Bernie Telega Harry, were not returned.

The position of tax collector is shared with Hermitage School District and Mercer County commissioners, and the other bodies could effectively nullify the city commissioners’ action by voting for a pay hike.

However, school board members did not mention the request at their meeting Tuesday, and are not scheduled to hold a meeting at which they would vote until Feb. 19, which is four days after the deadline for setting the position’s compensation

The salary cannot be changed to affect a sitting treasurer-tax collector, and can only take effect with the position’s next four-year term.

Harry is completing her second term and the position is up for election in November.

City Commissioner William J. Moder III said he believes the tax collector salary of $26,055 and treasurer salary of $6,000 are adequate, and noted that Harry receives the same benefits and pension as a full-time city employee.

But, Moder said, he does not consider the position to be equivalent to that of a city employee.

“It’s not a salary,” he said. “It’s compensation for a position that’s elected.”

Commissioner Duane J. Piccirilli said his no vote did not reflect what he thinks of Harry or the job she does.

He added that he wanted the board to publicly vote on the issue, even though the commissioners simply could have ignored it.

“We owed it to the taxpayers of the city to do a public vote, yes or no,” Piccirilli said. “Whatever the outcome, people needed to know where we stood on the issue. To do nothing would have been wrong and unfair to everyone.”

The board members voted unanimously.

The tax collector collects real estate, per capita and business license taxes, and the treasurer makes bank deposits, signs checks, reconciles bank statements and submits monthly reports, said City Manager Gary P. Hinkson. The position oversees two finance department employees, he said.

The tax collector salary has been the same since 2005 and the treasurer compensation has not changed since 2002, Hinkson said.

In a letter to commissioners, Harry asked for a wage hike and annual cost of living increase. If each position’s salaries had been raised by 3 percent a year – which is about what city unionized employees have been getting – over eight years, the combined salary would have been just more than $40,000, which she said “would be more in line with the other employees in this office and closer to that of other department heads.”

The job comes with “a great deal of responsibility,” she said, and has grown with changes in school tax collection options and the city, school district and county granting a tax incremental financing plan to Levey and Co., Akron, Ohio, for a retail development.

Once Levey completes construction and the property at the Shenango Valley Freeway and South Hermitage Road is assessed for tax purposes, the taxing bodies will divert 69 percent of new property taxes to pay off a loan issued for public improvements over 20 years.

Harry also said she plans to seek another term.

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