“But they have been successful at getting levies,” Young points out.
This past March, Butler County voters approved a six-year, 0.5-mill tax renewal and 0.2-mill tax increase for MetroParks. The levies cost property owners $24.50 per $100,000 of taxable value a year, which is broken down at $15.31 for the renewal and $9.19 for the additional millage.
“They’ve taken on additional responsibilities and added staff and they’ve also, of course, had a significant, perhaps an extraordinary, increase in their pay per position,” Young said.
The average cost per position for MetroParks employees has increased 69 percent, according to the Journal-News’ analysis.
The Journal-News recently reported that MetroParks Executive Director Jonathan Granville's new 25-month contract included a salary of $85,696, a 20.01 percent increase from his previous salary of $71,406. In addition, he received a $20,000 performance bonus plus monthly car and cell phone allowances.
One member of the three-person park board told the Journal-News there weren’t many options if MetroParks wanted to keep Granville in his position.
“He asked for more and these were the only terms he’d agree to … We have too many projects going on. It was the smartest thing we could do,” Gregory Amend, a Board of Park Commissioners member said.
Employees in the Butler County Auditor’s Office average a salary of $51,565, which represents a 23 percent jump from when Auditor Roger Reynolds took office in 2008. But the number of employees in the Auditor’s Office has been reduced from 74 to 40 since 2008.
There were more employees than were needed, Reynolds said, and many did not have the necessary job skills.
“We do real estate work, we do accounting work. Out of 74 people, I had one licensed appraiser and one person with an accounting degree,” he said.
“So I had to go out and hire people with the necessary skills to get the job done. The result was a much smaller staffing level and a higher productivity level,” he said.
Union employees in the Butler County Sheriff’s Office are making almost $1.2 million more than they were in 2008, according to budgets. That’s a 6 percent increase, but there are about 23 fewer employees since then.
Young said the county has little control over salaries for unionized departments.
“I believe the sheriff has been a very good steward of the taxpayer’s dollars,” he said. “He has worked with this board of commissioners and certainly with me since I arrived to hold budgets flat.”
After years of strong union resistance to merit pay, several unions have now agreed to some form of pay based on job performance.
The county has ratified contracts with sheriff’s deputies and supervisors that include a 0.5 percent pay increase if they participate in training and physical fitness programs.
Union President Sgt. Jeff Gebhart said they are satisfied with their new contracts and are not interested in performance-based pay.
“We’re not upset with how they are working with their employees; it’s just not the road or the path that we want to be on,” he said.
Butler County’s performance-based pay includes up to a two percent increase to a non-union employee’s base pay and up to another two percent that will be paid in lump sums quarterly.
The total amount budgeted for performance pay is $1.9 million, according to Finance Director Tawana Keels.
“Things were pretty out of control from the amount of growth we had, and Butler County was just living large throughout the early 2000s,” Butler County Treasurer Nancy Nix, who took office in June 2007, said.
Commissioner Don Dixon said it was “painful” to let more than 500 people go, but it was necessary. He believes the new performance-based pay plan will help the county’s budget.
“I think that in itself is going to really, really help sustain the budget long term,” he said. “… I think we’ll be able to maintain quality employees and still stay focused on the budget.”