The Liberty Twp. trustees will spend about $40,000 giving their employees an average 2.6 percent pay bump this year, raises they say have been earned.
The trustees said township employees are performing at a high level.
“We’ve got a great team, they’re kind of firing on all cylinders right now…,” Trustee Steve Schramm said. “I think it’s only fair to reward them for what they’re doing. … looking forward at where we’re going over the next 10, 15, 20 years, we’re going to need all hands on deck.”
The total payroll budget for the year is $5.4 million. The largest raise is five percent going to Assistant Township Administrator/Finance Director Michelle Greis, bringing her annual salary to $92,700. Greis was named to the dual role one year ago, filing the second-in-command position vacated by former assistant administrator Melanie Hermes, who resigned last June.
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The other directors — except Township Administrator Kristen Bitonte whose raise is still under consideration by the trustees — all received three percent pay hikes. The fire union contract and deal with the Butler County sheriff’s office for police protection both call for two percent pay raises.
Schramm said they wanted to ensure Greis isn’t going anywhere.
“We’re really trying to solidify her role as our first lieutenant if we ever lose Kristen for any reason,” Schramm said. “I think it puts her in a position pay-wise to be number two or three in the township, which she deserves.”
Trustee Board President Tom Farrell said they are cognizant they are spending taxpayer money when they give raises but he agreed with Schramm the team is more than earning their keep.
“We’ve always had good people but I don’t think we’ve clicked the way we click now, everybody’s working together, we all have common goals,” Farrell said. “We want to keep the team together, in order to keep the team together, we have to make sure they’re paid what they’re worth.”
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Bitonte is the highest paid employee at $117,000 annually. Next is Fire Chief Ethan Klussman. Klussman joined the township last fall after veteran chief Paul Stumpf retired. He was chosen after the trustees went through two search rounds — one with the help of the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association that produced 19 candidates and a second in-house process where 28 people applied — to find a new top fire official. Klussman’s hiring salary was $108,000, and the trustees agreed to bump his pay to $111,000.
Bitonte said Klussman has accomplished much in his first 10 months on the job, warranting a raise within the first year.
“He is a phenomenal addition to our team,” she said. “Whether it’s adding to the command staff, evaluating our operations, he’s just done a stellar job. So that’s what led to his positive review and his increase.”
The trustees were expected to approve the raises July 17. The new salaries take effect Aug. 1.
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NEW LIBERTY TWP. DIRECTOR SALARIES
$111,000: Fire Chief Ethan Klussman
$92,700: Assistant Township Administrator/Finance Director Michelle Greis
$92,700: Services Director Rick Plummer
$89,610: Director of Planning and Zoning Bryan Behrmann
$89,610: Economic Development Director Caroline McKinney
Township Administrator Kristen Bitonte’s $117,000 annual salary is under review by the township trustees.
SOURCE: LIBERTY TWP.
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