FORT WAYNE – With the exception of one, the names of the highest-paid Allen County government employees in 2012 remained virtually the same as the year before.
All are white and four of the 10 are female, compared with 2009 when two women made the list. The majority work in the courts or prosecutor’s office. The county employs about 1,900 people.
The salary information was compiled by the Allen County auditor in response to a public records request filed by The Journal Gazette. The information includes only gross wages, no benefits.
Most full-time county employees receive a health care package and have the option to contribute to a retirement fund, although the county does not provide a match, Auditor Tera Klutz said. The list also does not include taxable earnings related to take-home county-owned vehicles.
Bradley Kohrman, an Allen County Sheriff’s Department officer, went from being eighth on the list to 15th as his salary dropped almost 3 percent, from $86,372 to $83,797.
Significant increases or decreases among officers’ salaries can be attributed to the amount of overtime worked on federally funded initiatives such as seat-belt enforcement duties or investigating suspected intoxicated drivers, Sheriff Ken Fries said.
In those cases, a federal grant covers the extra money above and beyond the officers’ base pay.
While some officers’ salaries dropped by several thousand, others increased, some by as much as 15 percent to 18 percent.
There may be a larger spread as some cut back on overtime and others picked it up, Fries said.
The list is somewhat deceiving, Fries said, because Prosecutor Karen Richards and most county judges aren’t included in The Journal Gazette’s analysis. The state pays the bulk of their salaries.
The state mandated last year that county sheriffs and prosecutors are paid equally, Fries said.
According to County Auditor Tera Klutz, the state pays Richards $130,080 and the county chips in $5,000, which would place her as the third highest-paid in the county.
Brown on top again
Topping the list was Memorial Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown with a salary of $150,445. Coming in second was Fries – the only elected official to make the top 10 – with a salary of $135,880.
Brown said he and his team work hard, and the results speak for themselves.
Last year the Coliseum had an economic impact in the county of $116 million, he said. The operations are self-sustaining and it is a good financial bargain for the community.
Brown credits his team for much of that success. Garnett Miller, vice president of sales and chief operating officer at the Coliseum, also made the top 10 list with a salary of $91,642.
This team is creative and dynamic, Brown said, and they are not afraid to do what has to be done for our community.
Brown and his team often work weekends, evenings and holidays, he said.
Brown will celebrate 25 years in management at the Coliseum in August.
When I look back on what we have accomplished, I feel blessed. I love my job – in spite of the once-a-year top salaries article, he added with a laugh.
Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan was third on the list with a salary of $129,054, an increase from the previous year of about $8,000.
The raise is not insignificant, but McMahan and her health department administrator, Mindy Waldron, turned down raises three consecutive years before getting a raise in June.
Waldron moved up the county roster, from 55th to 36th, going from $70,298 in 2011 to $77,245 last year.
Another employee who received a pay hike was Eric Zimmerman, who works in Allen Circuit Court.
Zimmerman’s salary was $82,400 last year, compared with $72,333 the year before.
Zimmerman took on double duties last year as part of a personnel restructuring in the court. His pay was increased as compensation for the increase in his workload after he took over the responsibilities of the director of court services and receptionist, who both resigned.
At the time, Allen Circuit Court Judge Thomas Felts said that in spite of Zimmerman’s increased salary, the restructuring plan should save the county about $39,000 a year.
Less take-home pay
The three county commissioners’ earned $67,253 each for their full-time elected positions while part-time County Council members each received $15,940.
A foreclosure clerk for the sheriff, a nurse in the Juvenile Center and a clerk in court records each earned just over $28,000, while a part-time worker in Community Corrections earned just under $24,500.
This year, the Allen County Council granted a 2 percent cost-of-living increase and a 2 percent bonus to help offset the change they enacted in 2011 to make employees begin paying the 3 percent mandatory contribution into their retirement funds.
It is the first such raise since 2009 when county employees received a 3 percent cost-of-living increase.
Even so, county employees, like many others in the private sector, will take home noticeably less money in their paychecks.
Because of the 2 percent increase in the federal payroll tax this year, employees will see a net effect of negative 1 percent in their take-home pay, even after the bonus and cost-of-living increase, Klutz said.
Council members are in the midst of looking into ending the automatic salary increase system and switching to merit-based increases only.
Service above pay
Last year, Lucas County, Ohio, home to Toledo and comparable in size to Allen County, paid its coroner $118,513, the sheriff $100,339, commissioners $87,075 and the county auditor $94,248.
Klutz said she and other county officials get varying opinions about their salaries.
Many residents think I make too much money, and others say Allen County is getting a good deal for a CPA with 14 years of experience, Klutz said.
Before working for the county, she was an accountant at the CPA firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
Klutz earned $80,233 last year. But it’s not about the money, she said.
An elected official should never complain about their salary since they are public servants who should know what the salary is before they run for office, Klutz said.