Mayor seeks power to raise pay ranges

Request sought for top city officials

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell.
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell.

Mayor Mike Bell is asking Toledo City Council for the authority to boost the salary ranges of the city's nonunion employees — those who fill the top spots in his administration.

Mr. Bell stressed that he is requesting that the pay ranges be increased, not the actual salaries of his deputy mayors, directors, commissioners, managers, and attorneys in the city law department. The last time the city adjusted executive pay ranges — with the exception of the police and fire chiefs — was 1998.

The mayor said pay increases would be handed out "if necessary."

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The requested pay-range increases vary between about 18 and 20 percent depending on the position, said Mr. Bell's spokesman, Jen Sorgenfrei. About 60 employees could be affected under the mayor's suggestion to increase pay ranges.

The legislation before council came with a detailed "executive salary survey" that looked at similar salaries in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton, as well as cities in surrounding states. Council could debate the request today during its 2 p.m. agenda review meeting.

Mr. Bell said the city's top officials are underpaid compared to their counterparts elsewhere.

"I was surprised that we were way out of whack, and nobody has been willing to tackle this since 1998," he said.

"I can remember as a fire chief bringing this to the attention of the administration and the council."

The report found that the average pay for the 15 classifications comparable to Toledo that were studied ranged from 9.42 percent to 42 percent above the maximum Toledo pay range.

Bell administration officials also said the Consumer Price Index for all items increased 34.2 percent from 1998 to June, 2012, for the Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint metropolitan area, the closest region where the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles the index.

Council President Joe McNamara said he isn't supportive until the Bell administration finds a strategy to reopen the Northwest District police station in West Toledo.

"I am still reading the report, but to be honest with you, people are really concerned with crime right now," Mr. McNamara said.

"They put a lot of energy and thought into this report, and I would like to see them put together the same amount of energy and thought into reopening the Northwest District police station. I think these raises are not going to be popular given the concern over crime in the city of Toledo."

Despite several concessionary contracts, Mr. Bell said unionized employees have typically received 2 percent to 3 percent pay raises annually for years while top staffers have not.

"All I am going to do is get the ranges fixed so that it is more fair," Mr. Bell said.

Don Czerniak, president of service workers union AFSCME Local 7, the city's largest union with 900 employees, said he was surprised by the audacity of the request.

"Here again we are giving the highest-paid people raises and the lowest paid people are not getting raises," Mr. Czerniak said. "Where is all this money coming from? … This is a big thing, and we feel like we are being kicked in the teeth."

Councilman D. Michael Collins said he wants to know how much all the raises could cost the city, and he wants to make it so any raises would not take effect until after the next mayoral election — meaning some of the top officials might not benefit.

A pay boost for upper management is a delicate issue for the mayor, who said some directors have been paid less than their subordinates, in part because of overtime they get paid while directors do not.

Last year, Toledo City Council voted to increase the salary of the city's fire chief and change the job classification for the legislative body's assistant clerk, allowing for a bump in pay in the future. Council set the fire chief's salary to $1,000 a year more than the top base salary of a deputy fire chief.

The base salary of former Fire Chief Mike Wolever, who retired last year, was $92,500 — an amount city code dictated at that time. His subordinate, then-assistant Fire Chief Luis Santiago — now the chief — was at the time paid $99,528.