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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

Perrysburg mulls performance pay for city chiefs

BY JACK BAESSLER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Perrysburg City Council took initial steps last week on a path to link the salaries of city administrators to how well they perform their jobs.

The package of nearly two dozen measures adopted by the council is intended to steer salary compensation toward a merit-pay system. It covers about 30 upper-level managers and some clerical staff.

The ordinances include sweeteners that improve vacation time, allow for more accumulated sick leave, and increase how much longevity pay can be accumulated.

But the hardest parts of creating a merit-pay system are months away from being decided. They include how to measure how well administrators perform their duties and interact with each other, and how local salary data will be collected that will form the basis for what the non-bargaining unit staff are to be paid.

Knowing that details of a merit-pay plan will take months to work out, the council approved 3 percent pay increases for most of the 30 personnel for one year, retroactive to March or January, depending on the employee. The increases follow raises approved in April for the city's 100 hourly employees.

The raises increase the salary of city administrator James Bagdonas to $94,276 a year from $91,520 a year. The annual salaries of Police Chief Nelson Evans and Fire Chief Dean Woods will go to $75,790 from $73,580.

Council member Maria Ermie, who head's the council's personnel committee, said the shift to merit pay is intended to reward the work of managers rather than let them receive increases that only mirror the results negotiated by hourly union employees.

Merit increases also would hinge on how well administrators give and receive feedback, she said.

“In my opinion there was not sufficient feedback solicited by city administrators from senior staff,” she said. “There are some in the city who do it very well and some who don't.”

The lack of ongoing dialogue was enough of a problem that it couldn't be addressed by dealing directly with a few problem supervisors, she said.

“Business has been [setting salaries based on performance] forever,” she said. “It shouldn't be that big a deal.”

Her hope with a merit-pay system is that employees will more readily share and experiment with new ideas to more efficiently deliver city services.

“One of the things we are looking for is the person closest to the task to find better ways to get the job done rather than just being told what to do,” she said.

Council member Tim McCarthy said he doesn't foresee a merit-pay plan for administrators becoming more costly than the current compensation arrangement.

“The perception on City Council is some people are performing above benchmarks,” he said. “I don't know of anybody who is performing below.''

“We should have a program that is more tied to performance,” he said. “We don't want administrators to just get lock-step increases linked to labor [agreements].”

The vacation improvement approved by council shortens to six years from seven years the length of time needed to qualify for three weeks of vacation. Similar improvements were made for longer vacations. At the top, employees with 27 years of experience will qualify for six weeks of vacation. The previous maximum had been 27.5 days for employees with 28 years of experience.

The 30 non-bargaining unit employees also can accumulate unused sick pay under the ordinances approved by council. Employees are entitled to 15 sick days a year.

An employee with 30 years' experience earning $26 an hour would be entitled to a $26,000 lump sum at retirement. The old formula paid out a $18,750 lump sum.

“The change improves what employees receive in the hopes it would reduce frivolous use of sick leave,” Mr. Bandanas said.

In another change, the council revised its residency rule to require the city fire chief to live within the city limits. The rule change won't affect Chief Woods, who already lives within the city, but he is expected to retire later this year and the council wants the residency requirement to apply to whoever is hired to replace him.

The police chief and city division heads are required to live within the city.

In other business, the council agreed to advertise for bids to construct a paved bicycle path from the Fort Meigs Memorial Bridge that links Maumee and Perrysburg to State Rt. 25 and West Indiana Avenue.

The project is estimated to cost $215,000, with federal funds paying for 80 percent of it. Mr. Bagdonas said the path fits in with the city's bike path master plan that city officials approved last year.



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