Rossford City Council members are wrestling with that most delicate of issues for elected officials: giving themselves a pay raise.
Council members are paid $250 per month (its president, $275), an amount that has not changed since 1993. They now are looking at raising that to $600 a month so council members would continue to accrue credit in the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. Effective January 7, 2013, that amount will be the minimum pay needed to earn full credit in OPERS.
What's more, under the proposed ordinance council members have been debating, future raises would occur automatically. That's because the minimum pay set by OPERS for full credit is indexed to future hikes in the pay of township trustees, raises that are set by the state legislature.
Rossford's city charter does not allow pay raises to take effect before a councilman's next election, but members are nonetheless sensitive to how increases would look to struggling taxpayers. They have given the proposed ordinance two readings. Three readings are required before council can take action to adopt.
At last week's meeting, Councilman Bob Duricek said he was not opposed to raises per se, but did not like the way the legislation provided for automatic increases with the tie-in to OPERS. Law Director Kevin Heban said this was the only way to maintain eligibility in the system.
"There's no other option if you're going to continue to qualify," Mr. Heban explained.
Councilman Greg Marquette said he would like to put the matter to the voters, a suggestion that was supported by Council member Robert Ruse. Councilman Larry Oberdorf said the small pensions council members earned -- $60 a month or so -- could make a difference to someone living on a fixed income.
In other business, council approved pay increases, averaging 3 percent, for certain administrative employees.
The positions and new salaries are: city administrator, $69,500; superintendent of public works, $56,680; finance director, $60,008; fire chief, $62,088; police chief, $62,088; assistant fire chief, $17.95 per hour, and parks and recreation director, $48,048. The raises averaging are retroactive to July 2.
Council also approved $500,000 in capital improvements for 2013 that include street improvements, a new roof for the public works building, buying a used truck for servicing storm sewers, and a new SUV for the police department. Council also budgeted $75,000 for the purchase of a new ambulance for the fire department, and $15,000 for the addition of eight finger docks at the marina.
Approval of these expenditures was included in an ordinance adopting the city's $5.9 million general fund budget for next year.