WILMINGTON — The Clinton County Regional Planning board approved a 2016 budget in November that called for slightly less overall spending, but what one commission member calls unjustifiable increases in compensation.
According to Van Pratt, the only commission member to vote against the budget, the approved 2016 budget called for 19.2 percent more spending in compensation for Executive Director Taylor Stuckert, mostly in the form of commission-paid benefits, notably health insurance.
According to Pratt, only 3.8 percent of the increase, which would be about $2,000, is salary. The previous executive director, Chris Schock, received health insurance from outside the commission.
Bruce Beam, Bob Thobaben, Mark McKay, Donald Spurling, Paul Hunter, Michelle Morrison, Dean Hawk, Rick Walker, Dwayne Dearth and Damian Snyder voted in favor of the budget. Van Pratt voted against it. Jim Myers was absent.
“With the departure of Executive Director Chris Schock in early 2015, the 2016 budget should have seen a substantial reduction” wrote Pratt, who voted against the budget. “The increase in Taylor’s compensation package cannot be justified in the face of tight county budgets and what is typical in the private sector.
“This budget represents what is wrong with government spending from the local to the national level,” Pratt continued. “Increases to salary and benefits are not in line with what the average private sector worker receives.”
“I think that his compensation is certainly appropriate,” said McKay. “The level of his education, his experience – his compensation is appropriate for all of those things, and I know the executive committee took those into consideration when considering” it.
A survey on the American Planning Association’s website shows that planners earn a median compensation, including benefits, of $75,800 annually. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports wages ranging from less than $41,490 for the lowest-earning 10 percent to more than $97,630 for the highest-earning 10 percent in 2012. The median wage was $65,230.
Using the BLS data, Pratt said he believed compensation in the mid-$40,000s was appropriate.
At the heart of the debate was health insurance, which is budgeted to cost $8,150.
McKay said adding health insurance, “was part of Taylor’s package from the beginning. It just didn’t come into play until this budget.”
McKay and other commission members said Schock received insurance from elsewhere. And, McKay said Stuckert, at $55,000, receives less than did Schock, whom budget documents show earned between $61,600 (after Stuckert was hired as assistant director) to $77,000 (before Stuckert was hired as assistant director).
Pratt said that when Schock left, the commission negotiated with Stuckert about his salary. Pratt said he believed Stuckert deserved pay in the mid-$40,000s, according to research he did.
Pratt said he compromised with other members of the commission, settling on a figure above $50,000.
“I agreed to that compromise because Taylor agreed to pay for his own benefits,” Pratt said. “Had he wanted insurance, that would have been fine at the start, but I wouldn’t have agreed to start him” that high.
“He’s done a great job, but that’s not the point,” Pratt said. “The point is that money is pretty tight.”
Stuckert said he did agree then to not take insurance because of the window of open enrollment and the difficulty that would have been involved in enrolling at that point in the year, after a budget had been passed.
Stuckert said he believed salary and health coverage would be part of future budget discussions.
Bob Thobaben defended the budget, saying it was in line with what directors of other regional planning commissions make.
Thobaben also said he believed Stuckert’s salary and the addition of insurance was comparable to what other county employees make, especially when considering benefits.
“If you go over to the courthouse, every employee has access to healthcare,” said Thobaben. “You can’t count healthcare as part of his salary. He never sees it.”
Thobaben also said the vote was unanimous, except for Pratt, “who comes at it from a different persuasion than I do,” adding that Pratt was a past president of the Clinton County Tea Party.
“It’s not Republican, Democrat, Tea Party or whatever,” Pratt responded. “That doesn’t impact the data.”
The commission approved a $121,305 budget for 2016, a decrease of about $2,000 from what was approved in 2015, although actual expenditures in 2015 were below what was budgeted.
According to McKay and budget documents, the largest increase in the RPC budget was $30,000 allotted for contractual agreements, which McKay said was slated for upcoming projects. McKay said all of that money wouldn’t necessarily be spent, and Stuckert said the fund would pay for operations support, similar to what he provided for Schock.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.