Last updated: February 19. 2013 7:06PM - 245 Views

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The future salary of the Luzerne County controller is slated for discussion at tonight's Luzerne County Council budget hearing, said council Chairman Tim McGinley.

The home rule charter allows council to alter the elected controller's compensation when a new term begins, though changes must be approved at least a year in advance.

The controller's seat will be up for re-election next year, with the winner taking office in January 2014. Incumbent Walter Griffith has said he plans to run again and has said he believes the current compensation is fair.

The controller pay has been $36,562 for years, which is the lower than all other 11 similarly-sized third-class counties in the state.

• Tonight's budget hearing starts at 6 p.m. in the county Emergency Management Agency Building, Water Street, Wilkes-Barre.

Council also is slated to discuss Councilman Rick Morelli's motion to end full benefits for several non-union employees who work less than 32.5 hours per week.

Representatives of budget/finance, the solicitor's office and administrative services division also will discuss their 2013 allocations.

• Council is scheduled to introduce the proposed 2013 budget at Tuesday's council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the EMA building. The agenda is posted on the council section of the county website at

• County Court Administrator Michael Shucosky said he's trying to spread the word the courts will be filling two new full-time court master positions before the end of the year.

The more applicants we get, the better we'll be, said Shucosky.

The court has been criticized for failing to alert the general public to open positions in the past.

These positions, which will pay $50,000 to $60,000 annually, must be filled by attorneys and were created because of rising caseloads, he said.

One will preside over child and spousal support proceedings, and the other will handle juvenile delinquency review hearings.

The positions will be posted on the county website,, and in the Luzerne Legal Register, he said.

• County Councilwoman Elaine Maddon Curry asked Shucosky during a recent budget hearing if the courts have reduced backlogs processing civil and criminal court cases.

Shucosky said judges are caught up but said the new master is needed for juvenile review hearings because that caseload has exploded under state juvenile law changes.

Review hearings must be held once a month for juveniles in placement, compared to every three or six months in the past.

Every child who is in placement gets seen by a judge or master every month, whether they need it or not, whether they're comfortable or not, he told council.

• Councilman Harry Haas asked Shucosky if the state provided additional funding to help cover the new requirements, and Shucosky said no.

The county is slated to spend $20.3 million on court branches next year and receive only $5.4 million in reimbursement.

I believe this is a public hearing, and I shouldn't discuss my feelings about these mandates we get where there is absolutely zero money ever allocated to us, Shucosky said.

• The courthouse Christmas tree has arrived, and council members urged citizens to attend the annual tree lighting ceremony from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in the rotunda.

• Griffith said at least 75 to 80 county employees are taking advantage of after-work classes on Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Word. The county pays $150 per class for instruction provided by Luzerne County Community College at the county's Penn Place building, he said.

Griffith praised the home rule administration for allowing the classes, saying his proposal to provide the instruction was rejected by the prior administration.

Council is scheduled to introduce the proposed 2013 budget at Tuesday's council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the EMA building. The agenda is posted on the council section of the county website at

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