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Board OKs salary increases

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Aug. 13 to authorize the increase of salaries for dispatchers and the Piedmont Court Services director and office manager.

Wade Bartlett

This action will not result in an increase of the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget.

The recommendations for these salary increases came from the board’s Personnel Committee, which is comprised of Farmville 701 District Supervisor and Board Chairman Jim Wilck, Hampden District Supervisor Dr. Odessa Pride and Leigh District Supervisor and Board Vice Chairman Jerry R. Townsend.

County Administrator Wade Bartlett noted that, as cited in the board meeting packet, the committee met Aug. 8 to review requests from Sheriff Wesley W. Reed and Piedmont Court Services (PCS) Director Renee Maxey to adjust salaries in their departments.

“The sheriff is having considerable difficulty hiring dispatchers,” Bartlett said. “He has offered a dispatcher position to three different individuals, and they have all declined to accept the job because of the salary. The sheriff currently has two dispatcher positions that are not filled. He has had to pay overtime or use road or courtroom officers to fill that void, which that costs us even more because they make more money than a dispatcher.”

Bartlett said he surveyed the surrounding counties regarding their average dispatcher salaries and received responses from Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland and Nottoway.

“Charlotte County still operates its own jail, and the dispatchers are also trained as jail officers,” he said. “Therefore their salaries are higher and not a good comparison.”

The average dispatcher salaries from each of the other counties, in addition to Prince Edward, were listed in the board meeting packet as follows:

Amelia — $29,735

Buckingham — $34,922

Cumberland — $30,564

Nottoway — $30,596

Prince Edward — $27,608

“So you can see we lag considerably behind,” Bartlett said. “The average of those is $31,454, not including Prince Edward.

“The committee is recommending the starting salary for dispatchers be increased to $31,000, which will require three existing dispatcher salaries to be increased to that level,” he continued. “This will cost almost $8,000, which will include the benefits.”

He stated four different ways this increase could be funded.

“The funds can be obtained from either, one, the fund balance of $125,000 that we just took down by about $60,000, but there’s still $65,000,” he said, alluding to the $60,000 in supplemental funding the board allocated to the county’s six rural fire departments to offset insurance costs earlier in the meeting, “or two, savings from the vacancy of the director of community development; I have not filled that position, and that’s been more over those two months than that $8,000; three, the expected increase in revenue from the fines that the sheriff expects if this request is granted.”

Reed confirmed in a Wednesday interview that dispatchers play a big role in traffic enforcement and having a full staff of dispatchers will help facilitate safer traffic conditions by allowing the Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office to conduct more traffic enforcement. He noted safety is the concern, not revenue, though some revenue does result from fines.

“He anticipates to collect more than the $8,000 from that,” Bartlett said. “And of course, fourth, we just got another $45,000 tonight.”

Bartlett was referring to the check for the county’s share of the proceeds of timber sales in the Prince Edward-Galleon State Forest that Assistant State Forests Manager Tom Zaebst presented earlier during the meeting. The check totaled $45,848.58.

Jim Wilck

Bartlett then said that if the board agrees with the Personnel Committee’s recommendation of increasing the dispatcher salaries, “I recommend we wait to see if a budget amendment will be needed, because there may be enough vacancy savings to absorb this salary increase, but go ahead and authorize that for the sheriff to do that.”

Right before the unanimous board vote, Wilck said, “I believe the committee voted unanimously to support this.”

Next, Bartlett addressed requests from Maxey.

“She has requested a salary increase for her office manager and herself,” he said. “The justification is because of a shortage of personnel requiring both to assume additional duties. There are nine total positions in Piedmont Court Services that are authorized. They have been operating for a considerable time, though, with five total employees. It’s been about six months.”

He said the county recently hired two new employees to bring the total to seven. The plan is to hire one more person if a suitable candidate can be found, but the county will be leaving one position open.

“The office manager has been with Piedmont Court Services for 17 years, but because of the vacancy of positions, she has volunteered to perform tasks that are normally the duties of probation officers and the senior probation officer,” Bartlett said. “The senior probation officer position is vacant, and we do not plan on filling that. Some of the duties she’s inherited are running criminal histories for new clients, running court dockets, training new probation officers on the supervision fee process and scheduling intakes.”

Bartlett continued by noting that Maxey has been the PCS director for right at 30 years.

“With the shortage of probation officers (PO) and especially the senior PO being vacant and no plans to fill that position, the director has had to complete the duties of the senior PO,” he said. “These include training all of the new probation officers, tracking all of the probation (officers’) court dockets, ensuring the new probation officers are prepared for court and actually, at times, handling case management duties.

He stated that the Personnel Committee’s recommendation was to increase the PCS director’s salary and the PCS office manager’s salary by 3.5 percent each. This would take the director from $70,463 to $72,929 and the office manager from $41,244 to $42,688.

“The total annual increase for these two actions, to include benefits, would be $4,580,” Bartlett said.

“This program is funded completely from a grant from (Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services),” he continued. “The local government, Prince Edward, is not provided any direct funding from the county taxpayers for this program, and we do not anticipate having to do so.”

The board meeting packet cited that the grant has been sufficient to operate the program.

“In fact, this last year, we had to return a portion of those funds because of the inability to hire personnel to fill all of the positions,” Bartlett said.

The summary in the board meeting packet followed that information by stating, “Thus, if this request is approved, there will be no impact to the county budget.”

No discussion preceded the unanimous vote of approval.