Township officials get pay raises

Increases meant to match neighboring communities, attract talent

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 2, 2018

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Harrison Township’s top elected officials will get a pay increase over the next three years in an effort to bring salaries to a comparable level with neighboring communities, as well as attract more qualified individuals considering running for public office.

Township Supervisor Ken Verkest, Clerk Adam Wit and Treasurer Darrin York each received 6 percent raises for the first year.

In a 5-2 vote on Jan. 22, the Board of Trustees approved the resolution to increase the trio’s individual salaries by 18 percent — to $80,000 each — by 2020.

Verkest, Wit, York and Trustees Bill Bitonti and William Servial supported the resolution, while Trustees Brian Batkins and Larry Tomenello voted against it.

The increase, which for the clerk and treasurer does not reflect percentages paid to their pensions, became effective Jan. 23.

Verkest said he understands that pay raises are not a popular subject, but added that there needs to be a correction in the fact that a majority of township employees make more than the township heads, who have more responsibilities.

“It’s always difficult in Harrison Township, but we chose a salary that reflects the average of comparable communities,” he said.

Before the raises for the three full-time employees went into effect, Verkest earned $65,500 annually, while Wit and York each made $61,798. In addition, the clerk and treasurer both received longevity pay, which has been discontinued as part of the resolution.

“In 43 years in the private sector, the most I’ve gotten per year is 3 percent,” Tomenello said. “When you say 6 percent, it’s very shocking because most of the people who voted for us, who are our constituents, might get 2 or 3 percent.”

Wit echoed Verkest’s comments defending the proposed increases, saying that the three officials are tasked with performing more responsibilities than those in their positions from larger, neighboring communities. Specifically, responsibilities that would be handled by department heads.

“These are communities that are similar in nature,” he said. “We don’t have the (additional) support the larger communities do.”

York contacted local communities and learned that in Clinton Township, the clerk and treasurer each make $81,024 annually. The clerk and treasurer in Macomb Township earn $85,000 each, and in Chesterfield Township, the clerk and treasurer have a salary of $85,000 while the supervisor makes $94,000.

“In the private sector, there are very few $22 million organizations that pay their top officers $60,000 a year,” he said. The top elected officials in Harrison Township oversee 65 employees and a $22.5 million budget.

Servial said he supports the increase, but he doesn’t know exactly how much is fair.

“I do know that it’s ridiculous that there are people who make $25-$30,000 more than the people that are bossing them,” he said. “I do believe you do deserve some type of raise. How much, I don’t know.”

Numerous residents spoke out about the pay raises, some suggesting that the board table the matter and look back into increasing the salaries for those positions during the 2020 elections.

Others expressed their disapproval of the rate.

“For most of the people in this area — Harrison Township, Macomb County — a 6 percent raise is unheard of,” said James Senstock, a former township supervisor. “But you guys feel it’s your right to get it.”