Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Housing agency pay defended

Raises undergo scrutiny

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The director of a private Warren County housing agency on Tuesday defended raises for her staff, and said her own salary has not increased 52 percent.

        Documents supplied Monday by County Commissioner Pat South showed New Housing Opportunities Director Teresa Nieberding's salary was to jump from $55,036 to $83,674.

    What: Recovery Services board meeting.
    Where: 210 W. Main St., Lebanon.
    When: 5 p.m. today.
        However, Ms. Nieberding, who was out of town Monday, said that was only a suggestion from the salary study commissioned by New Housing, four other private agencies and their public client, Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren and Clinton Counties.

        The New Housing board is to decide her salary Friday, and she has told them $83,674 is too high.

        Ms. Nieberding, however, said she supported the raises her staff received July 1.

        “I felt that people had been underpaid,” she said. “Turnover was high.”

        The agencies sought the study to equalize pay among similar jobs and bring it closer to market rates. But the county commissioners have raised a furor over the size of the raises — especially so soon before a Recovery Services levy request.

        Not including the director's salary, the payroll at New Housing rose 25 percent while staff hours increased just under 1 percent. Recovery Services' biggest contractor, Mental Health and Recovery Center of Warren County, and the others have not released their salary schedules.

        Recovery Services' board of directors, which approved contracts in June that included the raises, will revisit the issue at its meeting today .

        Ms. Nieberding said the salary study was part of a multiagency budget process that included trimming spending elsewhere.

        The private agencies have traditionally competed for Recovery Services dollars to help the mentally ill.

        “I think we're working to get meaner and leaner and treating people more fairly,” she said.

        Some of New Housing's higher-paid staffers got no raises, the director said, while the lowest-paid went from $8 or $9 an hour to about $10 or $11.

        A 52 percent raise went to an administrator who has brought in more than $1 million in housing grants in less than two years, Ms. Nieberding said.

        The employee's salary is now $38,029, according to the chart.


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