Butler County stalls searches for two key positions, and raises could be next

Given uncertain revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Butler County commissioners said filling two new high-level positions and possibly merit raises are on hold.

The commissioners hired Angel Burton on Monday as finance director, a position vacant since early February, with a $111,500 annual salary, but they have delayed filling a new assets, purchasing and projects director and assistant county administrator.

County Administrator Judi Boyko is estimating a possible 17 percent or $19.3 million revenue shortfall due to the pandemic, which will delay those searches.

She had offered the assets, purchasing and projects director position — that had a pay range of $84,219 to $124,800 — to one of the 100 who applied, but he declined.

“With the volatility in the economy, the candidate has decided right now is not the right time to transition,” she said. “I’m not going to pursue that position anytime soon. It’s on hold unless I find an outstanding candidate.”

Both positions were budgeted. Commissioner Don Dixon said these are “treacherous” financial times and without a clear picture of what the future holds, he agrees with not hiring the assistant county administrator.

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“I can’t imagine anything that would make filling that position practical at this time,” Dixon said. “It’s just too uncertain, we’re trying to stop the bleeding and maintain the current staff that we have. I can’t see any possible way we’ve be willing to fill that position.”

The county has not had an asset and purchasing director since November 2016 when Randy Quisenberry left for a job at the Council on Aging for Southwest Ohio. Commissioner T.C. Rogers said there could be value in filling the position sooner rather than later.

“It’s on hold, but if there’s an asset manager performing the functions that are they supposed to perform, they should save the county more in purchasing than their compensation,” Rogers said.

Employee raises are another budget item under consideration for possible cuts. The commissioners for several years have operated with a two-part performance pay formula that calls for pay hikes in the 1 to 3 percent range added to an employee’s base pay and another 1 to 3 percent available in lump sum, quarterly payments.

The 147 employees under the commissioners’ direct control already received the base pay raises the first of the year, and the second quarterly merit boost is scheduled for June, unless changes are made.

When the budget was looking very strong for this year Boyko recommended adding another percentage to the lump sum pool for all eligible employees in the county, unions included, as a reward for helping the county right itself financially. The total impact would be $540,925. The commissioners haven’t voted on the bigger incentive pie but Dixon previously said they would likely approve it.

Now not only the higher pool of money but merit raises in general are iffy.

“I think that any extra compensation whatever the category has to be reassessed,” Rogers said. “Because we’re going to be $20 million light.”

Dixon said the performance pay plan gives the county flexibility.

“Everything is on the table right now,” Dixon said. “The two-and-two has not been talked about as far as the spending immediately, but you have to remember that’s one of the tools we put in the toolbox that enabled us to adjust the economics of the county budget quickly. So at some point in time we have to address it and more than likely it will be gone temporarily.”

The commissioners have convened a meeting with all the other office holders for Thursday to discuss the coronavirus budget impact.

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