Jerusalem Township Fiscal Officer Julie Van Nest has recommended to trustees that they not hire an assistant because the township cannot afford the nearly $19 per hour wage paid to the previous assistant, Karen Rogalski.
Rogalski, of Ottawa Hills, retired December 31 after serving as the trustees’ part-time assistant for two years,
“We cannot afford to hire anyone right now with money from our General Fund,” Van Nest said last week. Eighty-percent of Rogalski’s salary was paid from the General Fund, she added.
Van Nest said the township is expecting less revenue this year due to the recession.
Rogalski worked an average of 22 hours per week for $18.80 per hour, said Van Nest.
“My concern is that trustees are going to have to find the money to pay for an assistant,” said Van Nest.
“Trustees had asked me for a figure that we could afford, and I said $9.50 per hour. But at this time, our General Fund cannot afford even that,” said Van Nest. “If trustees want to cut and slash in areas, and get someone in there, then that’s their decision. But I put my appropriations together for the 2009 budget and presented them to trustees. There’s no way we can afford $19 per hour.”
Trustees are expected to review the appropriations at the next trustee meeting this Tuesday.
“We have only so much money to work with,” said Van Nest.
Trustees Joe Gray and Joe Kiss clashed over the need for an assistant at a trustee meeting on Feb. 24.
Kiss said he didn’t think the township could afford a trustees’ assistant at $19 per hour.
Gray said Rogalski was needed to “keep the township running as a whole,” while trustees were working.
“Trying to call state, county and federal offices after work is impossible,” said Gray.
Gray said trustees had an assistant before former Fiscal Officer Don Murray hired Rogalski.
Kiss asked what she was paid per hour.
Gray said less than $9.
“I’m sure she did a heck of a job for less than $9 per hour,” said Kiss. “The point is we can get someone to do all this stuff for a lot less than $19 per hour…I’m sorry we don’t see eye to eye on your personal former assistant. Unfortunately, she’s retired. And unfortunately, we may not be able to hire someone else because we can’t afford it. We can’t afford $18, $19, or $20 per hour to have someone in there doing anything,” said Kiss to a burst of applause from the audience. “We might as well move on.”
Gray, who insists the township has enough money to pay for an assistant, said Rogalski did more than answer phones for trustees.
“Karen was not a secretary for the township. Karen’s job was an assistant. Karen did a lot of research,” said Gray. “She had a lot of projects. Karen did more than what a secretary was, and she was hired for more than a secretary. The job description for her position states such. Did she take messages? Yes. When she was here, she took messages. Did she do research and make contacts for the trustees when it was needed? Absolutely.”
Kiss said he had submitted a job description for an assistant at less pay to Gray, but Gray had rejected it.
Gray said Kiss never provided him with a job description.
“I did have a job description,” said Kiss. “You know I did. I gave you one. And you threw it back at me in executive session.”
“You never gave me a job description, Joe,” Gray said to Kiss.
“I’m not going to sit here and argue with you,” Kiss said to Gray. “You know I did. Julie [Van Nest] saw it, you’ve seen it, Rodney’s seen it. I gave you one and you handed it back to me at the table in there. It’s just another amnesia bit and that’s fine. I had a job description, I had one tonight. Nobody wanted to advertise because we didn’t want to put in $8-$10 per hour because we’re just going to get brain dead people…I don’t buy the fact that $8.75 per hour is for brain dead people. We can get good people for that kind of money. You overpaid the former assistant.”
Resident Mike Csehi urged trustees to show “fiscal responsibility” if they decide to hire an assistant.
“The members of this board must show fiscal responsibility when it comes to tax payers’ money,” said Csehi. “The recommendation of the fiscal officer at the last township meeting was to hold off on hiring or at least reduce the salary to approximately $9 per hour. I feel there are many qualified candidates in Jerusalem Township who have needed employment and can provide needed services at a lower salary.”