Increase of hours from 35 to 40 a week OK’d for Monroe County health administrator

Up until Tuesday night, the job of health administrator of Monroe County was paid $62,026 annually, based on a 35-hour work week.

After the county council’s action at its Tuesday meeting, health administrator Lori Kelley will work a 40-hour week, and receive the corresponding increase in salary—an increase to $70,887 a year.

Also on Tuesday, a vital records registrar position in the health department was bumped from a 35-hour week to a 40-hour week. The additional work translates into an increase from $39,622 annually to $45,282

Appearing in front of the council to make the requests on Tuesday were new health officer Clark Brittain, and vice chair of the Monroe County board of health Dawne (Aurora) DiOrio, along with Kelley.

None of the councilors were supportive of the request to make the increased health administrator hours retroactive to Jan. 1 of this year. But a majority did support making the change retroactive to July 1.

The council voted 6–1 to make the change retroactive to July 1, 2023. Dissenting was Marty Hawk, who did not support making the change retroactive at all.

Related to salaries for all positions across the county’s organization was the appearance of county commissioner Penny Githens at the county council’s Tuesday meeting.

Githens was there to present the 2024 salary recommendations from the board of commissioners to the county council.

The commissioners are recommending an increase in 2024 of 8.5 percent. That’s the recommendation that the commissioners ratified the following morning, at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

Monroe County health department hours increase

The case for increasing the number of hours for the vital records registrar position in the health department included, for the sake of consistency, having just one person perform the opening and closing procedures for the office. Those include counting the cash drawer, checking the deposit from the night before to make sure that is accurate, and doing the daily bank deposits.

Currently, the opening and closing procedures and the deposits are rotating among the registrar and the assistant registrars, in order to avoid having any employee exceed 35 hours a week. Rotating the task across employees is against the recommendation of the auditor’s office.

According to Kelley, the registrar currenlty has to “flex out” their time, to avoid going over 35 hours for a week. That leaves the office short-staffed for service to the public.

County councilors appeared fairly easily persuaded that the registrar’s job should be bumped from 35 to 40 hours a week.

The case for bumping Kelley’s job of health administrator to 40 hours was based on the fact that she is basically already working close to 40 hours a week—which means 80 hours for a two-week pay period.

The documentation in the county council’s meeting information packet shows that for the second half of 2022 she worked an average of 79 hours every two weeks, and through this year has worked an average of 76 hours every two weeks.

Based on Tuesday’s deliberations among county councilors, they think the $62,000 salary is low for that position. The idea that the position needed to be increased to 40 hours a week did not appear to be at all controversial for county councilors.

The only point of friction was whether to make the change retroactive. Hawk did not want to set any kind of expectation for other departments that retroactive changes would be made.

Hawk also alluded to the turmoil that the health department has experienced in the time since Kelley took over last year from long-time administrator Penny Caudill. The recent history of Monroe County’s health department also includes a one-sentence resignation note in April, from long-serving county health officer Thomas Sharp.

Hawk said that it was important for the department to “turn the page” and expressed some concern that to make the change in hours retroactive could cause people to think the turmoil in the department “has been rewarded.”

Budget 2024: Countywide salaries
It will be the county council, the fiscal body of the county, that makes the final determination of 2024 salaries as a part of the 2024 budget process. The county council’s budget process will start in the next few weeks.

By giving the county council a recommendation for a salary increase on Tuesday, the commissioners weren’t stepping on the council council’s fiscal toes. Under state law, the commissioners are required to provide a recommendation on salaries to the county council. They have to do it no later than Aug. 20.

The 8.5-percent increase recommended by the commissioners is based on what they analyze as a 6-percent increase to the CPI in 2022.  They include in their recommendation a previous 2.5-point shortfall—between a 7.5-percent CPI increase in 2021 and the salary increase for county employees in 2023, which was 5 percent.

At Wednesday morning’s county commissioner meeting, Githens noted that the 8.5-percent recommendation is not a limit on the amount of the increase.

Githens put it like this: “I personally would like to see an even larger wage increase, so that there is a true true salary boost here for people.” Githens said that county employees should be paid enough that they can afford to live in Monroe County.