It took some discussion to get there, but by the time Brown County Commissioners Court adjourned Monday, the salaries of the two justice of the peace court administrators had been equalized.
The court’s actions in the regular session meeting also raised the starting pay for clerks and administrators in the courthouse, and gave some already on the job raises — effective immediately.
Brown County Judge Ray West said he had looked into the starting clerk’s pay, and compared the $15,500 annual salary to surrounding counties, and to secretarial positions in the private sector.
“It compares extremely poorly,” West said. “There’s no other way to say it, it’s abysmal.”
Commissioners voted to raise the starting salary of clerks to $18,000, up from $15,500. Clerks who started at $15,500 but have not received enough annual raises to bring their salary to $18,000, will be raised to that amount, and clerks presently making $18,000 but less than $19,000, will be raised to $19,000.
Commissioners also approved the starting financial clerk’s salary to be $23,000 and the starting salary for court administrators to be $24,000. But the salary for the two current court administrators was raised to $25,000, which will equalize their salaries. The increase is a raise of slightly more than $1,500 for Rhonda Durkop, the court administrator for Precincts 1 and 4, but less than $25, for the Precincts 2 and 3 court administrator, Victoria Collom.
Continuing the discussion of salary increases and raises, commissioners passed a resolution to be incorporated into the county employee handbook that will prevent employees from transferring from one department to another where the pay level is less than the level they are currently being paid and taking their higher salary to the new job.
“In other words, if a person wants to transfer, and take a pay cut, they can, but they can’t take their higher pay with them,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Larry Traweek. “That’s something we want understood up front.”
The ruling should also prevent situations from occurring in the future, like what happened four years ago when Collom transferred into the justice of the peace’s offices as a court administrator at a higher salary than Durkop, who had more experience and trained Collom for the administrator’s job.
The voting on each of the two motions went 5-0, with all four commissioners and West approving.
“This is going to cost the county about $15 grand, which we’ll take out of the discretionary balance,” West said.
West credited Traweek for doing the research and salary comparisons, and said what prompted the action Monday more than the discussion at the Oct. 15 court session of the disparity in pay for the justice of the peace court administrators was District Clerk Jan Brown’s reported problems in hiring a clerk capable of doing the job at the $15,500 starting salary in her office. Twice in the last year, Brown said at the Oct. 15 meeting, employees had gone to work downstairs in the courthouse, for salaries, almost half again the amount paid in the clerk’s office.
“We struggle to get someone in at the 15-5, train them, and then they leave and we’re back where we started,” Brown said last week.
“We need to consider two things,” West said. “One is continuity, one is more money. We’ve got to address this, and we’ve got to come up with a workable solution.”