A rapid jump in salaries planned for 2014 will instead be phased in over a three-year period under a $71.9 million budget approved by the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors earlier this month.
County Treasurer William Cherry proposed in October giving raises to some nonunion department heads who, in some instances, were paid less than those they supervised.
Taking seniority pay increases into account, unionized county employees saw their salary increase by about 17 percent over the past five years, while department head salaries inched up by 2.5 percent.
Cherry proposed a plan to establish pay grades similar to those used by labor unions and tied a comparable salary to them with the goal of bringing department head salaries up to par in 2014. But some supervisors said the pay hikes — in excess of $10,000 in some cases — were too sudden.
The board’s Finance Committee instead instituted a three-year plan which, using Cherry’s pay grade proposal, will also set concrete salaries for use in the search for department heads in the future.
The plan as approved by the county board will be retroactive to July. Phasing in the salary increases instead of applying them all at once will save $92,232 next year.
County board chairman Philip Skowfoe said Monday a phase-in of the pay increases was a less-abrupt way to go.
“That was a sizeable amount of money. If you didn’t spread them out, it would’ve been hard for people to digest, and it wouldn’t have been fair to union employees,” he said.
Though they’ve seen more-consistent pay increases over the last five years, union members didn’t get the big pay hike initially in store for non-union workers, he said.
“That’s the fair way of doing it,” Skowfoe said of the three-year plan.
The Finance Committee made few changes to the tentative budget, and the ultimate spending plan for 2014 was established at $71,927,392.
It comes with a tax levy of $19,059,430, Cherry said, about $370,000 more than last year, but tax rates will go down, not up, because the assessed value of property in the county grew by about $77 million to around $2.26 billion for 2014.
The property tax decrease will average 1.5 percent in the various municipalities.