Compensation increase proposed for Luzerne County’s next manager

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | December 10th, 2015 4:18 pm

Luzerne County Council Chairwoman Linda McClosky Houck has proposed increasing the salary of the next county manager by as much as $50,000.

Several citizens have pointed out the current compensation of $110,000 may be too low to attract the best applicants, McClosky Houck told her council colleagues during a budget work session earlier this week.

“The thought, I think, is that the salary may need to be more attractive now that we’re not a brand new government and people have had a chance to see how we work,” she said.

A new manager will be hired in 2016 because Robert Lawton has resigned effective Dec. 31 after nearly four years as the first non-interim manager under the home rule government.

Councilman Rick Williams said McClosky Houck’s proposal is “probably pretty wise.”

Councilman Harry Haas said he has no problem with a range but hopes the county is able to attract qualified contenders at the lower end. He acknowledged the challenge, saying an area school district with a budget a quarter the size of the county’s, is seeking a superintendent for $130,000 to $150,000.

County manager positions routinely pay $150,000 or more across the country, according to public postings.

Haas also jokingly said the council also should budget funds for a bullet-proof vest for the next manager, a reference to the often fiery atmosphere encountered by those filling county leadership posts.

McClosky Houck urged her colleagues to consider the manager compensation before Tuesday’s vote on the 2016 budget.

Aside from the looming budget deadline, a decision on the manager salary range must be made for on outside citizen committee to proceed with the recruitment and screening of manager applicants, she said.

A salary up to $160,000 may be “high or where we need to be,” McClosky Houck said.

The home rule charter says the manager’s salary cannot exceed the elected district attorney’s compensation, which is budgeted at $178,800 in 2016, or be less than 55 percent of the district attorney’s salary, or $98,300.

A budget for the manager search and selection process also was discussed this week, with McClosky Houck proposing $5,000 for advertising.

Councilman Tim McGinley said the county budgeted around $35,000 to recruit and select the first manager in 2011. He suggested budgeting about $18,000 this time for position advertising and expenses to bring finalists here for interviews and other costs.

The other council members did not propose different suggested amounts during the work session.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.