Butler County Developmental Disabilities union gets raises with new deal

The Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities has ratified a new deal with their developmental specialists’ union that includes 2% performance raises, but that amount can be increased if affordable.

The new contract ratified by the county commissioners on Monday calls for performance raises up to 2%, which mirrors the former deal. But Superintendent Lisa Guliano said the union will receive a higher percentage if the board gives the other employees more.

Union President Mindy Flora said setting the increase at 2% again was acceptable to her membership because the board over the past several years has given the union pay equal to the rest of the agency.

“There is a clause that if they decide to give more to the agency based on their financial earnings, that they will give us more,” Flora said. “That’s happened in the last three years where its been a 3% raise. So I’m comfortable with leaving 2 there with that clause in there.”

The DD Board hasn’t been following the county commissioners performance pay plan because until a couple years ago it couldn’t afford to. Under the commissioners’ plan workers can receive a raise of up to 3% on their base pay and another lump sum increase of up to 3%, both based on their performance.

Guliano said her independent board makes raise decisions annually based on finances. They first offered the lump sum bonuses two years ago. This year might be different.

“We’ll be discussing with our board in September whether we can actually do that this year,” Guliano said.

The cost of the new three-year contract, based on the 2% increase and no bonuses is $52,503.

The new deal also increases the minimum salary for the specialists by 2% to $39,015 and the maximum by 10% to $69,113 annually. Flora said the getting the cap increased was a major victory because several employees in the 20-person unit were topped out. An employee who is at the top of the pay scale can only receive lump sum merit pay.

“We had several people in our unit that were already capped out and have to work 10 more years to retirement,” Flora said. “So that was a big one to try to get that cap raised, you don’t want to be at the same salary for ten more years.”

When the DD Board negotiated the last contract in 2017 the financially fragile agency had to insert a clause that if a proposed 2018 levy request failed, the 2% raises in that contract would be erased. Since that time the finances have improved so much they did not go on the ballot in 2018 and are projecting they won’t have to for a while. Guliano said they took the levy clause out of this contract but maintain the ability to withhold increases if finances fail.

The agency has not been the ballot with a tax levy ask since 2004, Finance Director Hailey Quinn said with help from some coronavirus relief funding that can be used partially for personnel costs, they don’t anticipate asking voters for a renewed or new levy until 2025.

“We have transitioned our day program services to providers in the community, consolidated facilities and reduced our workforce. This has allowed us to remain off the ballot for the past sixteen years,” Quinn said. “Our top priority is to provide services and supports to the individuals served by the board in the most effective and efficient way with taxpayer funds. Every year, we evaluate cost savings options so that we can continue to operate on the same millage voted by our taxpayers in 2004 for as long as we can.”

During the pandemic the majority of agency has worked remotely, including the developmental specialists, who help families with newborns to three years old who are suspected or diagnosed with developmental disabilities, raise their children.

Flora said she had some trepidation about how virtual visits were going to work with families but “they are doing really well.”

“Ours is a coaching model so to transfer to going online and on camera with them has been better than what we thought because we’re still coaching the parents,” Flora said. “They’re doing the actions with the baby as we watch and give ideas and strategies on how to make things easier. So it’s actually really flowed well.”

Guliano said although their clients aren’t required to tell them if they have the coronavirus, of an estimated 3,000 people they serve about 37 have tested positive. She said six were children, some young adults and the rest are in their 50s and 60s.

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