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Assess appeal board salaries not yet axed

Cuts and change to per-day payment likely to be made at Jan. 20 Salary Board meeting.

Luzerne County commissioners eliminated salaries for three assessment appeal board members in the 2011 budget, but they did not take the next step to officially cut the pay during Monday’s Salary Board meeting.

Commissioner Stephen A. Urban said the appeal board pay was not on the agenda, because appeal board chairman Angelo Terrana is entitled to a vote and could not be contacted before Monday’s meeting.

The matter will likely be addressed at the next Salary Board meeting on Jan. 20, Urban said.

The county’s 2011 budget cut $92,000 in the salary line item of the assessor’s office – the amount of pay for the three board members.

Commissioner Chairwoman Maryanne Petrilla has said the appeal board members would be switched to a per-day payment on days when assessment appeals are heard.

Terrana receives $32,509 annually, and board members Andrew Shiner and Richard Oravic are paid $29,777.

Salary Board member Walter Griffith, the county controller, said after Monday’s meeting that he won’t be paying a $625 clothing allowance for non-union prison workers because the payment authorization was not on Monday’s meeting agenda.

He also cautioned that the board did not approve payments for per-diem, or part-time, workers in the sheriff’s office. The county’s 2011 budget allocated funding for part-time workers in that office, and Griffith said he won’t release payments unless the salary board approves the expenditure.

Three permanent full-time positions were created Monday:

• Prison day reporting center director, $40,000. The position will be partially funded by a state grant for three years, and the county must assume the full cost in 2014.

• Prison registered nurse, $46,572.

• Clerk, salary unspecified, to handle prison food purchasing.

Also, the board eliminated a full-time domestic relations support supervisor position, saving $59,685, and increased the salary of the part-time first assistant public defender from $35,241 to $46,000, though benefits were eliminated.

Griffith voted against creating the three prison-related positions, saying nobody gave him job descriptions.

The controller also rejected the pay increase for a first assistant public defender.

Chief Public Defender Al Flora said he could not find anyone to take the job at the original pay. The assistant must work at least 1,000 hours per year and will primarily focus on homicide cases, he said.

Griffith said after the meeting that he received no proof that Flora exhaustively searched for candidates at the original pay.

The three commissioners also serve on the board, and all three commissioners approved Monday’s agenda items.

Urban switch made

Luzerne County Commissioner Stephen A. Urban’s registration switch from Republican to Democrat was officially processed and approved Monday by the county election bureau, office director Leonard Piazza said.

Urban cited a lack of support from the Republican Party as the reason for his registration change. The move means all three commissioners are now Democrats.

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