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BY PAT FARNELLI

Wyoming County

Press Examiner

Wyoming County Commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday to create a Board of Tax Assessment Appeals to replace the Commissioner’s board of assessment revision, which consisted of the commissioners themselves.

They also noted the salaries for the two highest paid employees in the county – set by state statute, not the commissioners – was for:  President Judge Russell Shurtleff, will be paid $173,271 in 2013, and District Attorney Jeff Mitchell’s salary was set at $172,271.

The new assessment appeals board will have three appointed members, and the salary will be fixed by the salary board.

Solicitor James Davis said that he has observed that the tax claim office has more than 100 of these agreements active at any time, and that the way they are presently calculated is not fair.  “The interest is not recalculated each time they make a payment, although the principal goes down with each payment,” he said.

A Joint Criminal Justice Advisory Board has also been created, and Commissioner Tom Henry has been asked to be the chairman,

The committee will include representatives from any agency that deals with the court systems, Commissioner Ron Williams said. “It is being set up to overlook and review the system of justice, and make sure people are placed correctly.”

A contract for the Public Defender, Deborah Albert-Heise, was extended for one year. Although the contract has not been finalized, Heise’s salary was set at $55,300, with an annual office expense at $54,600. A part-time employee was added for the public defender’s office, at a salary of $18,000, which will be paid by the public defender. $12,000 will be dropped in rent.

Bid letters were opened from banks quoting interest rates to be charged on a Tax Anticipation Note, which is an advance of sorts to tide the county over until tax revenues come in.

Five banks submitted quotes: Peoples State Bank of Wyalusing, at 1.85 percent; Peoples Neighborhood Bank of Hallstead, at 2.97 percent; PNC Bank of Scranton, 1.59 percent; First National Bank, at 1.69 percent; and M&T Bank of Wilkes-Barre at 2.28. M&T also submitted a variable rate re-option at 1.85 percent.

The low bid by PNC Bank was accepted by the commissioners. Henry noted, “Maybe this will inspire them to put a branch in here.”

Several purchase service agreements were signed for  Children and Youth Services.

New committee members were appointed for the Conservation Board, including Dorne White and Commissioner Ron Williams.

The Pennsylvania Committee on Crime has made two grants for victims of juvenile offenders, one in the amount of $800 and another at $11,112. These funds are to be used for rehabilitation and other victim support.

The commissioners also announced they will be paying the same percentage of their health care premium in 2013, or three percent, as other county employees.

This is the first time that county employees will be paying part of their health insurance premium, and is part of a new union contract currently being finalized.

As of Tuesday, all employees will be required to wear identification badges at the courthouse. In addition, everyone entering the courthouse is required to pass through the security scanner, including employees.

The county budget is available for public view at this time, and will be voted upon when the commissioners meet on Thursday, Dec. 27.