Washington County budget

Barbara S. Miller/Observer-Reporter

Trinity Area School District Superintendent Michael Lucas, at a meeting of the Washington County Commissioners Thursday, acknowledges the inclusion of a job-training project on a list recommended for funding from the local share of casino gambling.

The Washington County Commissioners on Thursday adopted a budget for 2020 and approved new contracts with groups of workers who are members of the Service Employees International Union Local 668.

The $98.7 million general fund budget retains the property tax levy of 2.43 mills that has been in place since the most recent countywide reassessment took effect in 2017.

Shelli H. Arnold, director of human resources for the county, reported Wednesday at an agenda-setting session that the three-year pacts with both groups of employees are identical with 3% annual raises in 2020, a 2.5% annual raise in 2021 and a 2.75% raise in 2022. The contracts also outline a 12.5% employee contribution to the cost of monthly health insurance premiums in 2020, 12.5% in 2021 and 13.5% in 2022.

Joshua Hatfield, county finance director, said Thursday after the budget adoption vote, “We prepared during the negotiation process projections for different scenarios based on this direction or that figure.

“We do a lot of groundwork in the beginning so we can have an idea of where we are.”

Arnold in March prepared a spreadsheet that shows 133 employees are covered by the residual and court-related/court-appointed SEIU bargaining unit from 27 departments and row offices. They have been known as “residual” since the county sold its health center in Arden in 2017.

Forty-four workers in the Children and Youth Services agencies ranging from caseworkers to clerk-typists, data analysts, fiscal employees and aides are included in the bargaining unit also listed as the Pennsylvania Social Services Union.

The current contracts are set to expire Dec. 31.

Commission Chairman Larry Maggi, presiding at the board’s final meeting of year and the last with a Democratic majority, did not link the contract settlement to the change in the board to majority Republican the first week of January.

“There were no overriding issues that would indicate that,” said Maggi, who will be the sole Democrat on the board in 2020.

“I think we negotiated in good faith and they negotiated in good faith, and we had a good relationship in the past. There were no big issues or stumbling blocks. All was worked out amicably by both sides.”

Rachel Shaw, business agent for SEIU Local 668, wrote in response to an email inquiry, “It is always the union’s goal to reach an agreement prior to the expiration of a contract so that the workers do not see any interruption in their negotiated benefits.”

But Maggi said of the budget in general, “We need to constantly rein in spending. It’s a continuous battle with salaries going up and new demands put on the county with state unfunded mandates.”

At the same meeting, the commissioners also approved, as presented, a list of 35 proposals to use $6.9 million from the local share of gambling revenue from The Meadows Racetrack and Casino.

Acknowledging their inclusion was Clay Kilgore, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society for its research and education center, $297,437; Dr. Michael Lucas, Trinity Area School District superintendent, for its agricultural mechanics and technical career program in conjunction with the Greater Washington County Food Bank, $120,000; and Barry Niccolai, executive director of Centerville Clinics Inc., for its mammography equipment upgrade, $382,621.

Now that the commissioners have OK’d the list, it will be forwarded to the state Department of Community and Economic Development, which has final approval.

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