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Published: Friday, 3/30/2001

What is fair compensation?

Toledo taxpayers undoubtedly will experience some form of “sticker shock” when they look at the recommendation of a city commission for the salary of the next mayor. After all, a jump from $75,000 to $136,000 seems like a lot of money, and it is.

But the members of the special compensation commission make a convincing case in recommending a pay level for the successor to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner that is in line both with the responsibilities of the job and the salaries of other local officials.

For Toledoans who have trouble separating the man from the office, it is worth repeating that the higher salary would not go to Mr. Finkbeiner, who is term-limited, but to the person elected in November. The commission also recommended raising the pay for City Council members elected this year from $18,500 to $27,500, a reasonable amount for a job that, while officially part-time, is very de-manding of most members' time and energy.

In making its suggestions, the seven-member panel - which the voters agreed to create at last November's election - had to consider that the mayor and council members have not had a pay raise since the current form of city government took effect in 1994, and that the next time pay levels can be revised won't be until 2006. One pay raise in a 12-year span does not seem excessive.

Looking at the mayor as chief executive officer of a $400 million a year business enterprise puts the pay issue in perspective. However, the commission did not simply consider what the mayor would make as executive of a comparably sized business - it likely would be far more than $136,000 - but instead based its recommendations in part on pay raises given to unionized workers since 1994 and the pay levels of the mayor's subordinates who run city departments.

Union workers have gotten raises of 3.3 to 3.5 percent a year. Nineteen city administrators already make more than their boss, not a healthy situation in any workplace.

Also considered were the salaries of other officials in the community, ranging from $95,000 for the head of the Metroparks to $160,000 for director of the Regional Growth Partnership. In comparison, $136,000 for the mayor is a sensible median.

The panel also examined other Ohio cities, two of which - Cincinnati and Dayton - have lower-paid ceremonial mayors in city manager forms of government. While the recommendation would make Toledo's mayor the highest paid in the state, it's unlikely that salaries in Akron ($123,531), Cleveland ($111,755), and Columbus ($110,300), will remain static.

Toledoans must have faith that a fair compensation package will entice good people to step forward and run for mayor.

The commission, which included representatives from public, private, and political concerns, including business and labor, has come up with a responsible, balanced recommendation for compensating Toledo's executive and legislative officials. The current City Council will have the final say, but members shouldn't have any qualms about following the panel's suggestions.



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