Butler County vet board members cap their own salaries

The Butler County Veterans Service Commission members have unanimously agreed to cap their own salaries, abolishing the automatic two percent pay raise new members get when they join the board.

The five-member vet board gets a new or reappointed member every year, and that person would automatically get a two percent raise over the last new appointee’s salary. When board President Tom Jeffers was appointed last Spring to replace outgoing commissioner Tom Stamper, his salary was set at $8,868, or two percent higher than the last appointee, former board president Fred Southard, who earned $8,694.

The commissioners’ salaries range from $7,985 for Commissioner Bob Perry — not including the $4,695 stipend he gets as board secretary — up to Jeffers’ salary of $8,868. Perry’s is the next seat up for appointment, and he said his will be one of three names sent to Judge Patricia Oney for consideration from the West Chester Twp. VFW post.

In his first official action as a commissioner, Chuck Weber, who replaced Southard, seconded Perry’s motion to set the next incoming vet board member’s salary at $8,868, the salary that will remain until all five members are making the same amount.

“I think whatever we cap it at right now, it is enough for the commissioners to get,” Perry said. “I think we are getting well paid for what we do.”

Southard actually broached the subject of a salary cap in May 2014 when he suggested they might pay everyone $9,000. The idea was never revisited.

The problem was public officers such as the commissioners cannot receive raises while they are in office. Back in 2001, the Clinton County commissioners wanted to give their veterans board a pay increase, but because of the aforementioned prohibition, the commissioners all resigned, and the judge in that county reappointed them the same day. The attorney general said that was a no-no.

Jeffers, who re-introduced the salary cap Wednesday, said as each new or reappointed commissioner joins the board over the next few years their salary will be the capped amount, until they are all earning the same. If the board feels a raise is warranted after that, they can revisit the issue. He said they didn’t want the salaries to continue to go “up and up and up.”

The commissioners also approved the $1.9 million 2016 budget. The biggest ticket item was $590,000 for veterans’ assistance, and it represents a $30,000 increase over this year. Transportation is also going up by $25,000, in part because of contractual obligations, but the commission is also expecting a mass mailing to boost the the number of veterans they serve.

Commissioner Ken Smith said he was at a recent training session and other counties have said the postcards — 26,000 will be mailed soon to county veterans telling about vet board services — are the best outreach tool, not radio spots or billboards, as the board has previously considered.

“Warren County has them billboards, they’re not doing very good,” Smith said. “Clermont County I think it was, was sending out the cards to every veteran and they got swamped with that. With us sending out those cards you might get a surprise.”

Executive Director Caroline Bier penciled in raises from one to four percent for the employees, but the overall impact is a drop of three percent for raises because they have several new employees who are making less money. The average raise is 2.1 percent.