Mayor defends plan to boost salary ranges

8/22/2012
BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell.
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell.

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell on Tuesday defended his request to boost the salary ranges he can pay nonunion city employees to a skeptical City Council that bombarded the administration with a list of questions.

The mayor is asking council to rewrite parts of city code that dictate compensation for the top city officials -- deputy mayors, directors, commissioners, managers, and the attorneys in the city law department. The requested pay-range increases vary between about 18 and 20 percent depending on the position, but Mr. Bell said it would not necessitate actual salary increases.

The last time the city adjusted the executive pay ranges, with the exception of the police and fire chiefs, was 1998.

"This is the only group that, when we go into negotiations, has no say in anything," Mr. Bell said.

Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said the increases are needed for the mayor to retain and attract employees who could otherwise make more money in the private sector.

Mr. Herwat promised the Bell administration would not ask for more money this year to fund pay raises as a result of increasing the pay ranges.

The bottom line for council: How much would this cost?

"I am trying to keep an open mind," said Councilman Adam Martinez. "I understand it is never a good time to bring this up but now is a horrible time since we have a structural deficit."

Among the questions asked, Council President Joe McNamara wanted a "worst-case scenario" price tag if all the employees received the greatest possible pay increase.

Mr. McNamara suggested a task force be assigned to study the issue, similar to a committee that must be appointed by council every four years to evaluate the pay for council members and the mayor.

Councilman George Sarantou opposed the idea, saying council would be shirking its responsibility by outsourcing the debate to a committee.

Councilman Lindsay Webb said it could be easy to vote no on the mayor's request without a strong argument in favor.

"No one has addressed this since 1998 because it is a political hot button," Ms. Webb said. "This is a hot potato that people have been passing and passing for a decade."

Mr. Bell said there is a fairness issue to deal with and agreed with Ms. Webb that the issue had been pushed aside by past mayors.

Mr. Herwat and Safety Director Shirley Green are both are paid $90,000. Currently, the range is $60,500 to $92,500 for the classification they are both under. However, the current city code does not actually have a deputy mayor listed. Instead, it designates pay for a "Chief Operating Officer" for the $60,500-$92,500 range.

Mr. Bell's change would add the deputy mayor position and make the range $60,500 to $115,500.

Another pay range listed as "E-3" includes commissioners and currently runs from $54,000 to $80,000. The new range would be $54,000 to $100,000.

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.

The report, written by Mr. Herwat, 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.

The mayor's proposed changes to the code also removes the residency requirement section, which was ruled illegal in 2009 by Ohio Supreme Court decision that upheld the 2006 state law forbidding residency requirements as a condition of employment.

The proposed change also removes a whole section titled parental leave, which -- among other things -- allows a female employee who has completed probation to be eligible for maternity leave for "that period of time that she is physically incapable of performing her regular work related duties."

It says: "The employee, in the event of extended disability resulting from pregnancy or childbirth, shall be entitled to use her accumulated sick time, bonus days, and vacation days, and then may submit a request to the Commissioner of Human Resources for extended sick benefits."

It also says that a male employee will be entitled to sick pay for the maternity of his spouse, and be entitled to take up to 15 days from accrued sick days to stay home to assist his family at the time of his wife's delivery.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.