Butler County prosecutor makes case for staff double-digit raises

The Butler County prosecutor is asking commissioners for a new lawyer and some double-digit raises, continuing an effort for higher pay for his assistant prosecutors he has led for years.

County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser has previously asked for raises that he said would more closely match other prosecutors’ offices and the defense attorneys his staffers face in court. He made his latest case during a budget hearing with the commissioners Monday.

“That’s always a concern, that somebody is going to leave my office and go into the private sector where they can make so much more money, really,” Gmoser said. “But they are dedicated, so I want to get as much for my staff as I can. Not beyond the norm and what is being paid out there, I’m a least trying to bring them up.”

He is proposing an 11 percent raise ($9,873) for Brad Burress, who is the chief of his criminal division. The raise would bring his salary to $89,760.

Gmoser is also asking for 10 percent raises for four other attorneys and 8 percent hikes for two assistant prosecutors.

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In all, he wants raises above the 2 percent county guideline for 22 employees, who make up 37 percent of his staff. The request range is 4 to 11 percent. For the past several years, the county commissioners have approved raises up to 2 percent added to an employee’s base salary and another bump of up to 2 percent in lump sum raises.

Earlier this year, Gmoser gave Chief Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson a 15 percent raise when he took over for retired chief Roger Gates. Ferguson earns $112,000, and he “is worth every penny” Gmoser said.

About 40 percent of Ferguson’s salary comes from the general fund, and the bulk is paid with delinquent tax assessment collections funds.

Overall, Gmoser is seeking a 4 percent budget increase for raises. He also wants to add another assistant prosecutor. In addition to prosecuting felons, Gmoser’s office serves as the attorney for the commissioners and other county offices, handling contracts, lawsuits, legal opinions and other legal services.

County Finance Director Tawana Keels gave the office-holders, departments and independent boards some guidelines as they develop their budgets for next year, including capping raises at 2 percent and planning only “limited growth in staffing levels.” The tax budget funding requests for the general fund came in at $108.6 million, about $2 million over early revenues projections.

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Gmoser isn’t the only elected official or department to go beyond the guidelines. The Veterans Service Commission wants 5 percent raises, and Common Pleas and Area Courts are asking for 3 percent raises.

Other departments are also asking for more personnel as well, including the public defender’s office (requesting 12 people) and the Butler County sheriff (11).

The three commissioners told the Journal-News they would likely approve the public defender’s request, largely because it is tied to state mandates, and state reimbursement is expected to reach 90 percent next summer.

Keels said Monday there are concerns about both the prosecutor’s and public defender’s office requests. The state’s reimbursement for public defender funding could decrease in the future, she said, and raises for one department could lead to a demand for raises for the other.

“We’re kind of building an empire on sand.” Keels said. “Then the other thing you need to think about is the prosecutor is going to talk about salary increases and positions and just know the public defender’s office has been asking for parity, so if you grant for one you’re going to have the public defender saying, ‘Whoa we have attorneys too.’”


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