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Published: Wednesday, 9/19/2012

Mayor prods council to adjust pay scales for top city executives

BLADE STAFF

The debate over hiking executive pay ranges for 70 top city of Toledo officials and lawyers intensified Tuesday as the Bell administration made its plea to City Council for approval.

Many of the city's directors, commissioners, managers, and attorneys sat quietly while Mayor Mike Bell, Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat, and others, including the city's chief prosecutor, Dave Toska, told council during a committee hearing how many top officials are paid less than their counterparts in other cities and had not received raises as Toledo's unionized work force has.

Since introducing legislation that would increase the potential pay ranges by 18 to 20 percent, depending on the position, the mayor has repeatedly defended it.

Mr. Bell said it always bothered him during his tenure as fire chief that previous elected officials would conclude contract negotiations with the city unions, then decline to address pay for the non-union employees. "There was no time for the last 70 people," the mayor said pointing out toward many of his closest officials.

The last time the city adjusted the executive pay ranges, with the exception of the police and fire chiefs, was 1998. Mr. Bell's request, if approved by council, would rewrite parts of city code that dictate compensation for the top city officials. Mr. Bell said it would not necessitate actual salary increases.

Mr. Herwat, during a lengthy outline of a report he authored regarding the compensation of the top 70 employees, challenged council to either approve the request or deny it next week. "Send them a message that you don't value them," he said. Council could consider the issue at its next council meeting Tuesday.

Many on council have been cool to the proposal.

Councilman Rob Ludeman pointed out that 84 percent of the 70 employees are paid "well below" the maximum possible amount. He suggested the mayor use his authority to address salaries before asking to change the pay ranges upward.

"I didn't appreciate any suggestion that we didn't think the workers deserve more pay," Mr. Ludeman said. "My feeling is yes they do a great job and they deserve it, and the mayor could do it without coming to council."

Mr. Toska said he is paid $67,99,5 and an assistant prosecutor with 16 years of experience makes about $40,000. Councilman Tyrone Riley later noted that Mr. Toska could be paid $80,000, and those assistant prosecutors could be paid more under the current pay range. He compared it to a child asking for more food while the child already has food on his plate. That child, Mr. Riley said, should finish the food on his plate first.

Jen Sorgenfrei, Mr. Bell's spokesman, said after the meeting that many top city officials are at the top of the range and would get less compensation if required to pay the full share of their pension plans and increased health-care costs, both of which are mandated in the legislation. "The proposed pay range increases, if granted, would offset the increased cost for pension and health care, as was done for collective bargaining units," she said.

Mr. Herwat and Safety Director Shirley Green are both paid $90,000. Currently, the range is $60,500 to $92,500 for the classification they are 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.

The legislation before council came with a detailed survey that looked at salaries in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus,  Dayton, and cities in surrounding states.

- Ignazio Messina



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