NEW PHILADELPHIA – It’s now up to City Council to decide whether city administrators and their assistants will get seven percent raises over the next three years.
Council’s Salary Committee has recommended the pay hikes for about 35 to 40 non-union city employees. Legislation was introduced at Wednesday’s Council meeting.
The cumulative effect would be a pay raise of 22 and a half percent by 2026 putting 10 city administrators in the six-figure salary range. The mayor would see a $22,954 bump in pay from 2023 to 2026. The city would also add a community development director at over $100,000 a year. The part-time council members would get a bump, too: from about $8,100 to about $10,000 a year.
Council is scheduled to meet on the second and fourth Mondays in October when they could vote on the salary increases.
So far, four of seven Council members have express support for the raises, saying they’re needed to bring city salaries in line with similar municipalities and to match the quality of services being provided.
“Seven percent is not preposterous to me in the big scheme of things,” said Councilman Dan Lanzer.
“Looking at the spreadsheet and seeing the 7-7-7, you do take a step back,” said Councilman Steve Rippeth, “until you learn the history and realize how many years we’ve gone without. And catching up … is always painful, but it’s something that needs to be done to be made right.”
Councilman and Salary Committee member Dean Holland blamed past administrations for allowing the city’s salaries to fall behind.
“When a mayor stands up and says publicly, ‘I don’t deserve a raise, therefore, the non-bargaining employees don’t deserve a raise,’ what kind of asininity is that?” Holland said.
“Our people need to be paid a competitive wage compared to what our private employers in this town are paying right now,” Mayor Joel Day said. “I can tell you some of our employees are being headhunted. This guy sitting next to me [Service Director Ron McAbier] had at least two job offers that I know of.”
Councilwoman Cheryl Ramos sounds like she plans to vote “no.” She said she didn’t think the city could afford it without raising taxes.
“We will be [asking for a tax increase],” she said. “There’s no way we can pay for this unless we do.”
The raises would cost the city about $634,000 over the three years. Officials say the city can for sure afford the raises in 2024. They’re not sure about 2025 and 2026, but Council could reconsider the increases each year.
Ramos was also concerned about the union employees’ reaction.
“They wanted higher raises, but we went to mediation to say the city couldn’t afford it, etc., etc., and here we are just months later looking at this,” she said.
Two other Council members sounded supportive of raises but also expressed some misgivings about the amount. Councilman Mitch Pace wanted the raises at least partially tied to performance.
“It’s not that I’m against raises by any means because I think that our department heads and everybody in this room does a good job. I just want to make sure the raises are going to where they need to go,” he said.