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Franklin Twp. under fire from residents, Tea Party for holiday bonuses

Township defends bonuses. Says employees have not had raises and it’s a way to reward their work.

Some Franklin Twp. residents and the Warren County Tea Party are raising concerns about the amount of spending for holiday bonuses and parties for township employees.

Kelly Kohls, Warren County Tea Party leader, said “several” residents have contacted her about this spending.

“Bonuses are a hidden way to add pay without transparency,” Kohls said. “Citizens can request copies of contracts, pay stubs and personal payroll reports under the public information act. These bonuses would not appear on these public documents/reports, so this hidden pay should be stopped.”

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Township officials have awarded at total of $16,000 in bonuses over the past three years to full-time, part-time employees and volunteers, according to Scot Fromeyer, township fiscal officer.

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“They’ve been paying holiday bonuses for as long as I know,” said Township Administrator Traci Stivers.

When asked if this was an appropriate township expenditure, Stivers said, “Appropriate? Again, we don’t pay a competitive wage and this, even coupled with the Christmas party, is less than our neighboring communities’ wages alone. The trustees have discussed this each year, and choose to do this as opposed to a wage increase, since a wage increase is permanent and a bonus is a one-time commitment.”

She said this year’s holiday bonuses were: $200 for full-time employees; $150 for part-time employees; and $100 for volunteers.

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“Our employees have not had cost of living raises or performance based raises since 2010,” Stivers said. “Our starting pay rates are nowhere near comparable to our neighboring communities. I suppose we could do away with this employee morale boosting event and give our employee’s raises, but that would cost even more than the last four parties combined.”

During the past four years, the trustees have spent more than $4,400 on employee holiday parties.

Stivers said state law allows the trustees to approve employee appreciation expenditures like holiday parties.

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For 2017, the trustees approved spending up to $1,500. However, Stivers said because of community donations, the total amount for this year’s holiday party was less than $20 at $13.40.

Stivers said the 2016 holiday party was more expensive, since the township had just approached many local businesses for The Moonlight & Mistletoe donations. She said the total cost in 2016 was $2,061.60.

“This is the most expensive party that we’ve ever had and it was 0.0824 percent of our budget,” Stivers said.

The 2015 holiday party cost was $1672.41, while the 2014 holiday party cost was $701.60, she said.

“When you consider that we have about 40 attend these parties it’s not much money per person to show the employees a little appreciation and hopefully keep them around,” Stivers said.”

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“I agree that these are expenses the township would like to avoid, but we have to take care of our employees and let them know they are appreciated,” Trustees President Brian Morris said.

Morris added that it’s important to think outside of the box and find ways to get these events sponsored in the future.

While Kohls said her organization is happy to see everyone celebrate Christmas, she said “to legally plunder the people you represent then take their hard earned money and act like Santa Claus at their expense is not only not Christian but, is also unethical.”

She said struggling families and senior citizens who trusted them to use their taxes to secure safety, sanitation, water and minimal services, not to party on their money are angry.

“The modest funds raised from Franklin Township taxes should be used for township needs only,” Kohls said.

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