Wood County given go ahead for pay raises

PARKERSBURG -Wood County commissioners have been notified there are adequate funds in the county budget to give county officials the legislative-approved 12 percent pay raises.

To receive the pay hike, county officials must submit a written request to the county clerk’s office by June 30. The state auditor made the finding there was adequate funds in the county coffers based on budget information provided by the county.

Fifteen counties in West Virginia were informed they did not have adequate funds to give the pay raises.

“The first day you could file for the pay raise was June 13; that’s when the legislation went into effect. The deadline is June 30,” said Mark Rhodes, county clerk.

As of Tuesday, Sheriff Ken Merritt and Assessor Rich Shaffer had filed their letters requesting the pay increase.

New officials taking office for 2015 will automatically get the pay hike. The sheriff, county and circuit clerks, assessor and prosecutor have to wait until their terms are up to get the automatic raise.

The county clerk’s position is up for election but for the unexpired term, then it will be up for election again in 2016 for the regular term of office.

Rhodes said he will not seek the pay hike.

“I got a pay raise when I was named clerk,” Rhodes said.

He was appointed county clerk by the commission after Jamie Six resigned. Rhodes faces Bob Buchanan in the November election.

The last pay hike for county officials was given in 2007.

Rhodes said the auditor’s office sought information on revenues and expenses from last year and the current year so far, what was budgeted, and a breakdown of any outside agencies the county funds.

“We also had to submit any debt the county had, which in Wood County’s case included the bond payments for the justice center, and the car loans, and we had to explain how they are paid. The county was also asked about any savings,” Rhodes said. “The county was approved following the guidelines the auditor’s office set up.”

Rhodes said once the request letters are received, the clerks are to send a copy of the letter with the budget revision to the auditor’s office.

“We have to reduce the contingencies line item and put the needed funds into the elected officials’ line items in their budget to cover the new salary and benefits,” the clerk said.

The county’s contingencies line item had $123,000 in it for the 2014-2015 budget.

County officials who do not request the pay raise will have their salary continue at the current level.

The state Legislature approved the pay hikes, contingent upon the officials filing the request.

Wood County would need to come up with $52,864, which includes the pay hike and employment tax to fund all the pay raises approved by legislators. As proposed, the salaries of the three county commissioners would increase by $13,305 for all three; circuit and county clerk’s salaries would increase by $6,653 each; sheriff’s salary would go up by $5,386; the assessor’s salary would increase by $5,386, and the prosecutor’s salary would go up by $11,592.

According to the pay raise bill, since Jan. 1, 2007, there have been additional duties imposed on county commissioners, sheriffs, county and circuit clerks, assessors and prosecuting attorneys by the state and federal government and that’s the impetus behind the raise.