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Published: Saturday, 9/6/2008

Toledo City Council urged to undo aides pay raises

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday urged City Council to reconsider the pay raises it recently handed out to six council aides, and one councilman pressed his colleagues to put the matter to a vote.

I am very disappointed that council would advocate salary increases when the city is currently facing financial hardship, the mayor wrote to council President Mark Sobczak in a memo forwarded to media outlets yesterday afternoon.

And with the city presently in or entering contract talks with several unions, the council-authorized raises would certainly impact these negotiation discussions, the mayor wrote.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he was writing in response to an article in yesterday s Blade detailing how council s six nonunion legislative aides last month received significant bumps in their salaries, from 17 percent increases to 38 percent in one case.

Four workers got raises from $38,613 to $45,289 a year, one from $32,818 to $45,289, and the most senior of the ;group went from $40,175 to $47,282.

The raises did not require a formal vote, and Mr. Sobczak spoke individually with council members to reach what he called a majority consensus.

Because some on council have since expressed second thoughts, it was unclear yesterday whether there is still a consensus.

The six legislative aides assist council with research, corre-spondence, and clerical tasks, and have jumped pay classifications and job titles with their new salaries.

Mr. Sobczak yesterday said he stands by the salary increases.

He said aides have taken on the work of at least three higher-paying administrators whose jobs were cut in 2006 and deserve the additional compensation.

In principle, these [higher salaries] are what we need to do, Mr. Sobczak said. You pay people for the job they are doing, not what you would like to pay them.

Councilman Joe McNamara sent Mr. Sobczak a letter yesterday asking that he organize a vote on the raises for Tuesday s scheduled council meeting.

[Spending] numbers of this magnitude should be discussed publicly and voted on, Mr. McNamara told The Blade.

Considering the fact that the administration needs council s approval to spend over $10,000, I think it is appropriate that council holds itself to the same standard.

Mr. Sobczak, in response to the call for a vote, said: I m not so sure that necessarily needs to be done.

Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council s finance committee, said he believes the higher salaries are appropriate considering how the aides job responsibilities have grown.

I just think this is a question of fairness, he said. This is not a pay raise for people. It s upgrading the classification accurately.

Mr. Sarantou also said it s less costly to give raises than to fill the three administrative job vacancies, the combined salaries and benefits for which could cost well over $200,000 a year.

One union in negotiations with the city is American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7, which represents about 900 Toledo employees.

Their three-year contract expired June 30.

Local 7 President Don Czerniak was dismayed to learn the size of the aides pay increases.

There are many other Toledo employees doing additional work for unfilled positions, but without raises, he said.

It s ridiculous that in light of laying off people, we re giving raises, Mr. Czerniak said. Don t be putting those kind of raises in people s faces, and then be saying that times are tough.

Mayor Finkbeiner said this week that 10 to 15 city employees could be laid off in October becaues of a general fund operating budget projected deficit of $3 million to $5 million.

A spokesman for the mayor yesterday said that no final decision had been made on the possible layoffs or the departments in which they could occur.

Contact JC Reindl at:jreindl@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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