The Somerset County Commissioners meeting sparked heated conversations once again Tuesday morning between the Commissioners and Treasurer.
This time it’s over the 2023 budget which is set at $55,888,568 — and is a 4.6% increase from last year’s spending plan.
The Commissioners say that no taxes were raised this year.
“We are constantly looking at the bottom line, and we do that every day. Even though the budget is approved, we still try to save our taxpayers money every day with different purchases, and making sure that we get the biggest bang for their buck.” said Colleen Dawson, Vice Chair of the Commissioners.
The salaries for non-union employees within the county increased 3.5 percent or 1,000 dollars, whichever is more.
But Treasurer Tony DeLuca says that’s not enough to recruit and retain desperately needed county workers amid their staffing shortage.
“Right now, we can’t give our employees nothing. It’s terrible. What they should’ve done is a tier system. They should give like two percent to the higher people, and give the lower people more money,”
DeLuca also says that he wasn’t involved in that decision, which he says he should have been part of.
In the meeting, he brought up that the salary for a County Deputy is $11.92 an hour, minus paying for healthcare and parking.
“You will not find a deputy or anybody to carry a gun for $11.92 an hour,”
Chief Deputy Sheriff Dusty Weir advocated for higher salaries during the meeting, saying that is critical to combat their department’s staffing crisis.
“After January 6th, I’m going to be down to four deputies a day. I’ve been trying to hire deputies for over a year now, but with the starting salary of where it is, I’m not getting a good response to get certified people,”
The Commissioners say they recognize the staffing problem, but that it’s not specific to our area.
“This is an issue that every commissioner faces in every county across the nation. This is not an issue specific to Somerset County. It truly is a universal issue. You see it, you have to see it when you’re out. So, we do work every day to see where we can make changes,”
With debate and frustration lingering over how county money should be spent.
“I think it’s unfortunate that we have some who choose to politicize the county budget. We have a fiduciary responsibility not only to county government, but also to our constituents, and that’s a responsibility that this board of commissioners takes very seriously,”
The salary board will hold their reorganizational meeting on January 3rd, when they will approve the salaries of county workers for 2023.