PARKERSBURG - A number of salary adjustments in the sheriff's tax office were submitted by Sheriff Ken Merritt and approved by Wood County commissioners on Thursday, including some raises, some cuts and some transfers.
Newly appointed chief tax deputy Bob Tranquill will see a pay raise of approximately $4,176 annually over his predecessor in the office, Dennie Huggins, who served as chief tax deputy under Sheriff Jeff Sandy.
The proposed changes were submitted to the county commissioners in a letter dated Jan. 4, but the commissioners did not take action on the request until Thursday. A notation on the letter states it was held while the commission checked to make sure there were adequate funds available in the sheriff's budget for the changes.
"We had to make some changes in the tax office. When we made the changes, that's not saying there was anything wrong with a person we are moving, but I have the right to make changes and I saw that's what I wanted to do. Two people will probably be changed around and that was it," Merritt said.
"There were some pay raises. I went back through several years and every time a new sheriff came in, there were pay raises. I tried to keep them balanced. What I did was try to even out the salaries of employees who were doing the same type of work. It didn't always add up. Some may be doing nothing but handling the concealed weapons, which is more demanding sometimes, so that's what we did," the sheriff said.
The sheriff confirmed one of his employees may be leaving the tax office and going to another job. "That's what I understand the county commission is working on," Merritt said. "She'll go from point A to point B. I don't see she will be out of a job, unless she refuses this other job."
Merritt said he's not requesting any additional funds. He has the money in his budget to cover the changes.
"Everything has changed a little bit, but we'll deal with it," Merritt said.
The stamp of approval from the commission states the request was approved because it was found there were sufficient funds in the sheriff's budget to make the changes, although commission President Wayne Dunn said he did not agree with some of the moves.
"I am concerned personally about the pay increases, where the money will come from. Last year the sheriff saved a lot of money and the money is in the budget for the present sheriff to go ahead and give the pay raises. But, personally, I question why there would be some of the big increases that were given when people are doing the same job," Dunn said. "I don't begrudge anybody getting a pay raise, but each has to be evaluated on where it's going and the merits."
"There is some change of personnel in the department. Nothing is finalized yet, but it looks like it's going in that direction. We are still discussing that and figuring out how to make that work more smoothly," Dunn said.
"The money is in his budget. Each department has a budget. We allocate the total funds, but it's up to them how they use it. Sometimes we disagree with how they use it, and we get into little tiffs about that, disagreements, but the bottom line is it's in their budget," Dunn said.
"Anytime there is a new elected official coming into office, there are changes. We want to make sure it's done correctly," Commissioner Blair Couch said.
Merritt also requested one employee, Dede Tranquill, be transferred from the tax office to the Concealed Weapons Fund/sheriff's secretary line item. According to her new bimonthly salary she received about a $7,647 annual pay raise over her previous salary.
According to Mark Rhodes, with the county finance department of the clerk's office, the cutoff for changes in the next bimonthly payroll is this morning. "As long as we get the notice by then, we can make the changes," Rhodes said.
County records show for the first paycheck after taking office, Tranquill received the same pay as Huggins, which was $2,277. Tranquill's new bimonthly pay has been changed to $2,451.31.
There were a total of 13 employees listed on the salaries; four of the salaries remained at their current level.
Tax office employee Brenda Morris received an annual raise of approximately $2,400; Jeff Mace took a pay cut of nearly $5,374 yearly; Jenna Phipps received an annual raise of about $8,796; Judy Wilson received a pay cut of about $6,332 annually; Mary Balog received a $2,554 pay hike; Sandy Stephens was cut by about $2,700.
The salaries of four other employees remained the same. One employee who formerly was paid partially out of concealed weapons fund and partly out of the sheriff's secretary fund, April Burdette, was transferred to the tax office, and received about a $3,500 pay hike. The total budgeted for all the salaries listed for the 2013 budget is $365,133.
The commissioners conducted an executive session Thursday citing personnel as the reason. The session included the three commissioners and Jason Wharton, prosecuting attorney, via phone. Later, Merritt entered the closed-door meeting. Following the meeting, the commissioners announced no decisions had been made.