Monday, August 13, 2001

Two more aid units raise pay

Warren officials critical of one unit's 52% hikes

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Raises were mostly modest at two agencies that serve the mentally ill in Warren and Clinton counties, according to information released in response to Enquirer sunshine-laws requests.

        The Mental Health & Recovery Center of Clinton County boosted its payroll 8.37 percent, and Jewish Vocational Services of Blue Ash gave average raises of 2.6 percent beginning July 1.

        The Warren County commissioners last month criticized raises as high as 52 percent at New Housing Opportunities.

        The timing was particularly unfortunate, Commissioner Pat South said, given that the levy for Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren & Clinton Counties will expire in November unless the agency can persuade voters to renew it.

        Recovery Services is the public agency that pays the Clinton center, JVS, New Housing and others to provide counseling, vocational training and housing aid to the severely mentally ill.

        The five agencies that provide the majority of public mental health services in Warren and Clinton counties took part in a wage study meant to equalize salaries for similar jobs and bring them closer to the market rate, said David Lorenz, executive director of Mental Health and Recovery Center of Warren County, which also participated.

        “We've gradually seen a slipping away of our ability to compete not only outside the county but inside the county,” Mr. Lorenz said. “We don't want amateurs dealing with the most mentally disabled people in the system.”

        Even under the new schedule, the agencies are paying just 90 percent of the market rate — as determined by a local and state salary survey — according to Bill Harper, executive director of Recovery Services.

        New Housing gave the biggest raises of the four agencies that reported numbers. Because all agencies' salaries now come from the same schedule, however, the differences mainly serve to show which agencies were paying the least competitive rates.

        For instance, the Clinton County center's billing and account specialists each received 12 percent raises. A vocational education specialist at Jewish Vocational Services received no raise. All three jobs have the same pay grade, but the JVS employee had been making about $5,000 more, according to charts provided by the agencies.

        Other salaries:

        • The median salary for therapists, who have master's degrees, is about $34,000, or $16.35 an hour.

        • Mr. Lorenz makes $88,388 annually, and Mr. Harper $89,981.

Two agencies refuse salary data

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