The county council on Wednesday made good on an earlier promise to grant a pay increase to local court reporters.
The council, meeting in regular session at City Hall, 201 Vigo St., approved an ordinance that was, according to council president Harry Nolting, the result of a negotiation with the county’s three elected judges.
They agreed to cut three court reporter positions in exchange for raises for the remaining ones, Nolting said.
Those raises, he added, were the result of discussions had with the judges during budget hearings this summer.
The raises, per the ordinance, will come in the form of longevity pay — pay that will be more than what can be earned currently by other county employees, according to county attorney Andrew Porter.
Up to four years, the court reporters will earn nothing extra, but after five years of service, they secure an additional $2,000 per year.
That goes up by $1,000 then every five years, topping out at $6,000 after 25 years of employment.
The longevity increases are expected to go into effect on Jan. 1.
Nolting said the ordinance is the direct result of conversations had with Superior Court I Judge Gara Lee months ago.
In June, Lee went before the council with a request to give three of her court reporters a bonus.
She was down to three court reporters from four prior to the pandemic, she told the council. Her argument was that her three court reporters had been doing the work of four; she planned to use the fourth — and now unused — salary in her budget to pay for the bonuses.
After much discussion, she was granted the ability to reallocate a portion of that unspent salary, specifically $5,000 for one employee and $3,000 apiece for the other two.
Those amounts, however, were only “stop-gaps,” as was described by Nolting on Wednesday, a stipend of sorts good for this year alone.
The resolution approved on Wednesday, Nolting said, was “the permanent iteration of the temporary thing we did” in June.
Those stipends were among many granted earlier this year as a handful of department heads looked to spend what they had in additional, discretionary funds to reward employees who remained dedicated throughout the pandemic.
But those approvals kickstarted some unrest amongst other county department heads and employees.
More from this section
In July — a month after granting Lee’s request — six county department heads went before members of the county council in asking for a pay raise — an unexpected request that died for lack of a motion to even discuss it.
Rick Carroll, the county’s maintenance supervisor, said the six department heads — maintenance, clerk, recorder, treasurer, auditor, and assessor — got together to make the request because they were upset about raises and bonuses given to other county employees in the months prior.
Not all departments, Carroll said at the time, had the luxury of discretionary funds.
While that request was denied, all county employees are, however, expected to get a 4% pay raise in 2023, and county council members said they would likely look to a policy to better regulate the issuance of bonuses and stipends.
In other business Wednesday, Sheriff Doug Vantlin told council members that he would be coming to them next month with a request to increase the jail cook’s pay.
Currently, that position earns $32,000 per year, the sheriff said.
It’s now open, however, as the jail’s cook of three years recently left to take a higher paying position elsewhere.
“I just want to give you guys something to think about,” he said.
His plan is to increase the cook’s pay to $42,000 per year — or the equivalent of a new jail officer.
To pay for it, he offered to use revenue from a grant that earns him $12,000 per year.
The council will take back up those discussions next month, when the sheriff makes an official request.
Vantlin also secured approval for a transfer of funds to shore up his food budget. Right now, the jail is spending upwards of $17,000 per week on food costs.
He needed $130,000 in an attempt to get him to the end of the year.
“And I can’t even guarantee that will be enough,” he said.
The money to make up the shortfall was taken from the revenue earned by housing state and federal inmates.