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Toledo City Council may trim number of committees

Toledo City Council likely will reduce its number of committees, but the number of staff members and their salaries will remain unchanged, councilmen indicated during a lengthy retreat meeting yesterday morning.

The 12-member council has 12 committees and each councilman serves as a chairman of one committee.

"I think members all want to see a reduction in the number of committees but everyone likes having a chairmanship, so that is the tricky part," Council President Joe McNamara said after the meeting.

Present for the three-hour meeting was Mr. McNamara, along with Councilmen George Sarantou, Betty Shultz, Phillip Copeland, Mike Craig, Wilma Brown, Tom Waniewski, D. Michael Collins, and Steven Steel. Councilmen-elect Adam Martinez and Rob Ludeman also attended.

Mrs. Brown said the number of committees was increased from 10 to 12 several years ago by former City Council President Louis Escobar so everyone could have a chairmanship.

She recommended the status quo but advised her colleagues not to hold single-item agenda meetings.

Mr. Waniewski thought seven committees would be sufficient.

Mr. McNamara said he would offer a plan after receiving by Thursday all suggestions for changing the committee structure.

Council would have to vote on the changes.

A majority of councilmen also refused to consider cutting the salaries of their staff members.

In 2008, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner urged council to reconsider pay raises it had handed out that year to six council aides. Council instead allowed the raises, which were granted by reclassifying the employees to higher-paying jobs, to stand.

Four workers received 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.

At the time, the raises did not require a formal vote. Then-council President Mark Sobczak spoke individually with council members to reach what he called a majority consensus, Mr. McNamara said yesterday.

Only Mr. McNamara and Mr. Waniewski said the salaries should be cut in light of the city's financial troubles.

Mr. McNamara later said council's staffing has been reduced from 16 to nine people in three years and that it could be reduced again in 2010.

"Council is cutting its own budget through attrition in that we won't hire to replace someone and there could be another retirement next year," he said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.

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