County commissioners approve salary increases for next prothonotary, coroner

The Warren County Commissioners approved salary increases for the next prothonotary and coroner during a special meeting this week.

It’s an odd meeting day and time every couple years that’s set by state statute. The salaries approved Thursday won’t go into effect until the 2022-2025 term. Those offices will be up for election next year.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said he reviewed the code and various laws relative to these salaries and found that the county hasn’t always adhered to all of them.

For example, he said the code requires increases on a percentage basis except for the lowest, which is currently the county coroner.

The county has “not followed this exactly” which has led to a “bit of an unequal evolved pay scale.”

He added a little historical background: Salaries for the row offices and commissioners were set by the state back in 1980 – coroner at $7,000 ($22,000 in 2020 dollars), commissioners were set at $19,000 (about $60,000 in 2020 dollars) and the treasurer, sheriff, register/recorder and prothonotary were all set at $17,000 (about $53,000 in 2020 currency).

That last amount is where some inequities have popped up in the county.

Kafferlin said the prothonotary’s salary – over the course of the last 40 years – now lags behind the others.

He said a $430 bump in 2022 and one percent from there on out would bring that office back in line with the others. That recommendation was approved.

“We are in a pandemic and we have seen a lot of layoffs that aren’t necessarily the result of the pandemic,” Commissioner Tricia Durbin said. “I do get concerned making any large changes not knowing the future of what the tax base is going to be.

Such a large change was proposed by Kafferlin for the coroner.

He said the coroner’s responsibilities have “changed pretty dramatically” once the last 40 years and especially in the last five.

The hourly rate for the other row officers, he said, is $27.42 and noted the coroner is currently making about $14 per hour, citing the “wide disparity between the two hourly rates.

He proposed increasing that hourly rate to $27 per hour, which would raise the total for 1,500 hours to $40,500 for 2022. The remaining three years of the term would include the one percent increase proposed for everyone else.

“I think I have definitely been able to professionalize the position,” Coroner Melissa Zydonik said, noting there is still going to be an “exorbitant” amount of work moving forward with “all of the records and the record keeping and the cleaning up of the records.”

Kafferlin said the current pay for the office is roughly $20,000.

Durbin said “it’s a really big step change” and said she “wasn’t expecting a recommendation like this.”

“You are moving that particular position up to a high professional quality,” she added.

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said deputies used to be heavily utilized and Zydonik said she is “really the only person who is taking the calls” at this point.

Eggleston raised a similar concern to Durbin, noting that Kafferlin’s proposal is “doubling the salary of the coroner right out of the gate. To do that is one fell swoop is a real challenge.”

He proposed increasing the rate to $20 – effectively splitting the difference at around $30,000 annually.

Kafferlin said that is “not qiote what I think is fair” but called it “movement in the right direction.”

The increase was approved unanimously.

Kafferlin said he’d like to see starting in 2023 a shift from percentage increases to the federal cost of living adjustment to “make everybody consistent.”

The commissioners were also slated to review the salaries for tax collectors as well as judges and inspectors of elections.

Kafferlin said he wanted a little more time to review the tax collectors, which is supposed to be set in a regular commissioners meeting. He said the election posts should also be set during an Election Board meeting.


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