Cambria County approves pay raises for CYS workers, other staff

Nov. 17—EBENSBURG, Pa. — The Cambria County commissioners on Thursday approved pay increases for seven employee contracts — including Children and Youth Services workers — after nearly a year of CYS representatives calling for raises.

Beginning Nov. 27, CYS caseworkers will have their hourly pay increased to $19 per hour or will receive a $2-per-hour increase. This is an increase of more than $4 for new CYS caseworkers. CYS caseworkers will also receive a 67-cent hourly raise each year through the length of their contract and will not maintain their raise if they transfer to a caseworker position that pays less.

Starting Jan.1, courthouse employees covered under the Service Employees International Union will receive a $2-per-hour raise, with a majority of the employees currently making between $10 to $13 per hour. This includes many of the clerks, administrative staff, caseworker supervisors and caseworkers in other county departments.

Public defenders and assistant district attorneys will also receive a $2-per-hour increase. The employees will receive a 67-cent hourly raise each year through the length of their contracts.

Gina Sowers, director of human resources, said some of the contracts were extended an extra two years — until 2026 — as a part of the agreement.

The move is the first in a plan to give all county workers a pay increase.

Sowers said all county employees will be offered raises, but due to the immediacy of the need, SEIU was approached first. The county has employees in five other unions.

Ashley Cullen-Bandzuh has worked for the county for eight years as a caseworker with Behavioral Health, Intellectual Disabilities and Early Intervention. She approached the commissioners in July, saying she was tired of seeing coworkers cry in the parking lot due to frustration, exhaustion and stress.

Cullen-Bandzuh was on hand to see the commissioners approve the increases.

"We've been working for a long time to get a wage increase, not only CYS but all of us," she said, "and this is going to go a long way."

Cullen-Bandzuh added that when advocating for CYS, increasing all wages was not the goal, but the increase is welcomed and will help to increase morale.

President Commissioner Thomas Chernisky said that after examining the budget for 2023, the commissioners recognized they would be able to work with CYS workers on an agreement and "protect the taxpayers of Cambria County" at the same time.

"We are able to make this change with no tax increase to the taxpayers," he said. "It is important to note that cooler heads prevailed and we did our due diligence to remain fiscally responsible."