President of Council Kathy McNear called Council to order on February 2, 2000, at 7:00 p.m.
The governmental body and those in attendance recited the pledge of allegiance.
Mr. Knox took roll call. Present were Council members Danbury, Galster, Pollitt, Squires, Vanover, Wilson and McNear.
The minutes of January 19, 2000 were approved with seven affirmative votes with one change. The minutes of January 5, 2000 should have read "were approved with six affirmative votes and one abstention."
COMMUNICATIONS - none
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE - none
Presentation Ė Community Center Fee Structure - Jim Burton
Mr. Burton said this is the third time I have been before you to suggest fee increases. Looking in the past for a family pool membership, I could not find any fee in 1972. In 1973 it was $15; $30 in 1977; $35 in 1984 and increased to $45 in 1993. We are suggesting that the family pool membership jump to $90. Basing the average on like facilities in the area and our own, we found that the average individual pool membership was $62 and the average family membership was $95. We made some name changes such as regular membership will be activity membership. The most that a family could spend if they purchased the pool membership and racquetball membership would be $115 a year. In the past few years, as long as one member in the household was 62 or older, we let everyone else in the household come on board at no charge. Over the years the family structure has changed a bunch so weíve clarified that. Now, if a person is 62 or older, that person and his/her spouse can belong at no charge, but nobody else in the household. We increased the business membership and added the family structure there.
Mr. Burton said we gave you the average membership of $62. (A list had been given to each Council member showing charges at other municipalities.) The high was $130 and the low was $45. Obviously we had the low rates. I think the fee structure is fair. If you look at the budget, next year we will have ten permanent part-time positions at a cost of $90,000. We are not going to make up all of that and weíre certainly not going to pay for the structure with this, but I think itís taking ownership and there is nothing wrong with making a little money. Whether we like to think that way or not, we are in competition with private industry. These rates will not take effect until January 2001. We might run some specials and encourage sales in the fall.
Mr. Danbury said I think we need to emphasize to the public that anything we do here is not necessarily to recoup the costs that we put out for the Rec Center itself. If you look at the options we are offering, we are tripling the size of the fitness area. I think this is in alignment with what a lot of people are paying and less than what people are paying for the YMCA or a fitness club.
Mr. Burton said the fees we took in last year were $28,500. With the new fee structure we would have taken in $61,500. Thatís an increase of $33,000. However, our budget is going to increase by $94,000.
Mayor Webster said Iíd like to compliment Jim and his staff on the leg work they did soliciting all the comparisons. I think they have put together a good schedule and one that is very fair. For $115 a family I donít see how you can beat that anywhere. We have talked about this several times at the Parks and Recreation Commission and they whole-heartedly endorse it. I think this is an administrative thing but we didnít want to just say this is what itís going to be so we are open to any suggestions.
Mrs. McNear said recently a facility has contacted us at our place of business and the fee structure for a family is in excess of $130 a month. I think $115 for a family for a year is a pretty good bargain.
Mr. Danbury asked could you give us an update on the Center? I know there was a flood last week.
Mr. Burton replied everyone felt they had every knob shut down and obviously there was one on the outside wall of the meeting rooms that were burned out that wasnít and a pipe burst. One of the maintenance crew was cleaning the sidewalks Sunday morning and saw it very quickly so most of it was contained to that area anyway. We are cleaned up and back in the building. The arts and crafts room was completed last week. Weíre pretty much back to pre-fire conditions other than the ceiling tile is missing but it makes no sense putting that back until they are through running all of their piping and their electric runs.
Mr. Danbury asked is there an estimated date for completion?
Mr. Parham said weíve been working with the contractor to put things into perspective on getting a timeline for where we were prior to the fire. The prime contractor requested the other primes to provide him with the knowledge of how long it will take them to complete various phases of their project, a lot of it focusing on what they are going to need as far as the renovations to the fire damaged area and for the other parts of the building that they are working on. The encouraging thing I heard is that they are getting close to closing the building in. Two of the three sky lights are currently in place and they are working on the third. They are getting prepared to pour the staircase in the rear of the gymnasium. The issue we had with the welding of the running track has pretty much been solved. They removed the previously installed welds to all the haunches and have completed three of the haunches. They have been tested with no cracks in them. The delay today was the fact that the equipment they were using has stalled on them. They are hoping to have new equipment out tomorrow. We still have the issue of dealing with the insurance company on the fire damage but I think that too will come together.
Mayor Webster said I think I reported before that we were going to have a meeting with the owner, engineers, etc. That meeting did take place and we expressed in no uncertain terms our displeasure with the lack of progress in the project, and also the amount of time it took to seek resolution on these problems as they arose. Some of these things just go on and on and on. The welding of the joints was one of those things. That problem has probably been before us for eight to ten weeks. The second purpose of the meeting was to let everyone know that we were going to plan on having our festival and the two major tournaments this year and that we expected them to comply with whatever they needed to comply with to open that side up, shrink the staging area so that we could safely and effectively get people in and out of the festival area. As of today, it appears that all systems are go. We will be having our festival. We will be hosting the girlsí softball tournament, the menís tournament and then the womenís tournament.
Mr. Danbury asked do we anticipate that the main parking lot will be accessible to the pool or will people have to continue going to the back entrance? They will just make more of the parking area more accessible for the patrons for the ingress and egress for the festival.
Mr. Vanover asked has any thought been given to looking into an organized off-premise parking site and using the shuttles that we already have in place to bring them in?
Mr. Burton replied we gave that a try two or three years ago during the festival. One of the routes that came through the Terrace had a pick up at Tri-County Mall. The ridership was very low.
Mr. Vanover responded with the aggravated situation we might push that to increase the acceptability.
Mr. Burton said maybe with the construction more people will decide to ride down.
Mr. Osborn stated we have discussed adding additional busses, particularly the night of the fireworks for the exiting crowds. We increased that incrementally over the years. We want to make it as convenient as possible for everyone so part of our promotion leading up to the festival will be the increase in the number of busses being used.
Mr. Squires said the fee activity schedule is more than reasonable and I think our citizens will adopt it whole-heartedly. I commend you and your staff for all your research.
ORDINANCE NO. 7-2000 "AUTHORIZING CDS ASSOCIATES, INC. TO PROCEED WITH THE ENGINEERING WORK NECESSARY FOR THE 2000 SUMMER STREET PROGRAM AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY"
Mr. Vanover made a motion to adopt and Mr. Wilson seconded. Ordinance 7-2000 passed with seven affirmative votes.
Mr. Danbury said on January 27 Mr. Parham and I met with the Mill Creek Watershed Council. It was an organizational meeting. They will have a web site to update the general public on activities and information about the Mill Creek and we can link our web site to theirs. There will be an event called "Paint the Creek" in the spring. They are trying to get both local and national artists to do paintings of some of the areas of the creek. They are considering opening up to photographers as well; and maybe even local school kids.
Mr. Vanover asked have we gotten a new timetable for the 915A sewer project?
Mr. Osborn replied that there was a pre-construction meeting January 28. Tim Green and Dave Butsch attended and received the construction schedule. The first phase of construction is to begin mid February and will run from just west of I-75 ending at GE Park. When that is completed work will begin from East Kemper Road to I-75. The work in GE Park will begin in November and be completed in August 2001. The work through our park will be fairly close to the front end of the project. R. E. Holland Excavating Company was awarded the contract.
Ms. Pollitt asked could you give me an update on the siren that is going to be installed on the Fire Department?
Mr. Osborn responded it has been in stalled and is operational. It was tested today. I heard it on January 1.
Ms. Pollitt said I want to address Council and get some input and direction. I believe you all have been given information from Ken Schneider regarding compensation issues. Does anyone have any information or thoughts on the findings that Mr. Schneider gave us last meeting? We did have a meeting January 25. In attendance were Steve Galster, Doyle Webster, Cecil Osborn, Ed Knox and me. We discussed the findings and the last increases for Council. The last increase was adopted in 1985 and put into effect January 1986. Mr. Galster and I were unable to bring forward a solid recommendation to Council. We would like Councilís input on the Law Directorís findings and how Council would like us to proceed.
Mr. Galster said I object to the idea of granting ourselves in-term pay raises. I have no question that we havenít had an increase in compensation for a long time and based on the information given us there is a need for an increase. I just believe that we can follow that through the regular process as opposed to trying to enact the first ever in-term pay raise that will happen in the State of Ohio. I have reasons to believe, not only from a right and wrong, but also legal issues where I object to this type of increase.
In Ken Schneiderís memo he states that the Ohio Ethics Commission has issued several opinions advising the Council members not to enact legislation granting nor may a member accept a pay raise. The Ohio Municipal League published an article in reference to the Ohio Ethics Commission and said the Commission has issued five formal opinions advising the question of when City or Village Officials can enact increases and the opinion is generally recognized that the salary increase for any upcoming term can be enacted any time prior to the election of the people who hold office. There was a fact finding sheet included with the package and it stated that there was presently an appeals in the courts in the State of Ohio and they are not in agreement with the Ethics Commission in reference to home charter type governments. They also stated that if you are a member of Council in a Charter municipality be sure to review these provisions of the revised code in light of what the Charter may say. I think that Mr. Schneider has provided a lot of information. I had a problem with the fact that if we werenít a statutory city; if we were actually governed by the Constitution of the State of Ohio, we would not even be discussing this issue because an in-term pay raise would not be permitted. Because we are a Charter City, it becomes a little more unclear as to what the law permits, but as far as the ethics issue I think itís the same. I stand by what the Ethics Committee believes is correct. There was a case where the Fifth District Court of Appeals found that Canton was permitted to allow themselves to have a post-election, pre-term increase. Itís basically for this reason that Mr. Schneider believes that we would be able to defend Councilís action for having either a post-election or in-term increase. But I have a couple of questions regarding that opinion. First of all, the Fifth District Court is not the district we are in. It is possible that other districts could view this completely different than the Fifth District. It would not be the first time that different districts may have ruled contradictory to each other. Once again, this decision was based on post-election, pre-term. I donít know if our district would view in-term pay increases any different than post-election, pre-term. I know that the Ethics Committee looks at that as a separate issue. I did talk to the Executive Director and he definitely views it as being different. To the best of his knowledge, no municipality has tried to do an in-term increase. I donít want to speak for the Ethics Commission, nor did he, but I donít think we can assume they wouldnít challenge us on that issue. The question of whether it is right or wrong is the thing that gets to me. I know that there are legal opinions that can be offered by lawyers and can be ruled on by courts. Even though they are defendable, it doesnít mean they are right or wrong. You look at the ability for anybody to go out and burn the flag. You have the right to do that and the courts will defend you, give you the right to perform that action, but it doesnít necessarily mean itís right or wrong. In my opinion, itís wrong but the courts say that you can still do it. Even though this is legally defensible, there are questions as to whether or not it is right. I donít know why we need to challenge it at this point. If we want to have an increase in pay, the way this Council has done it over the course of its history, the way other statutory cities do it, the way other Charter cities have done it in the past, is we enact an ordinance and it takes effect when everybody else gets re-elected. They donít allow an in-term increase. I have no problem with that. There were comments that people didnít want to bring it up because they didnít want it to become a campaign issue. Thatís like saying we donít want the people to be that aware of it and have that be a campaign issue where we have to feel their wrath. Iíd rather feel the wrath that way rather than with us pushing an issue that from an ethical standpoint is borderline. If you donít want to wait for the next election to have the increase go into effect, then put it on the ballot in November and let the residents vote on. I just think we are crossing a very big line when we decide that weíre worth making x amount of dollars.
Mayor Webster said I disagree with several things Mr. Galster had to say. First off, in researching the increases that elected officials have been given in this City, every single time an increase has been voted on by Council, some members have received in-term increases without exception. Mr. Galsterís proposal which he didnít put forth tonight but Iím sure he probably will, is that we pass an ordinance making an increase effective December 1, 2003 so that no one sitting here would benefit from it. Sure we can do that, but that would be the first time that itís ever happened. The Mayor, Finance Director, and either the district people or at-large people have gotten in-term increases. What we are talking about here is not unprecedented. The only reason we are talking about it to this degree is that when these other increases were granted, the last being 14 years ago, there was no Ethics Commission. There was no one to mandate that we file election reports and mandate that we pay $10 for the privilege of filing an ethics report with them. Iíd be more than happy to share any of these documents with you but just for the record Ordinance 36-1969 was passed August 20 and took effect December 1, 1969; Ordinance 4-1977 was passed in February 1977 and took effect December 1, 1977; Ordinance 57-1981 was passed October 7, 1981 and took effect December 1, 1981. There was a special one in 1981 where we separated the compensation for the President of Council and that was retroactive. Ordinance 58-1985 was passed November 20 and took effect January 1, 1986. Itís unprecedented for us to look ahead four years to grant salary increases to public officials. As I said in Finance Committee, itís not a pleasant thing for us to have to do so we can just forget it and let somebody else worry about it at some future time. But thatís whatís happened the last fourteen years and I think the salary schedule is way outdated from where it should be and I would be very proud to take the increase if it were so voted and I would not equate it with burning the flag.
Mr. Wilson asked what kind of increase was discussed at the meeting? Is that for public knowledge? What analogy was used to come up with that figure? After listening to Steve, I would think if itís going to be an issue of that nature, perhaps we should put it on the ballot.
Ms. Pollitt said the City Administration did a survey of elected officials and also a survey of compensation increases that our City employees have received since 1985. The City employees have received 58% straight across the board increases and if you add accrual amounts to it, that is 76.63%. We had looked at different cities, Blue Ash, Evendale, Sharonville, Woodlawn, Fairfield, the same cities we use for other yardsticks. We do not have a lot of information on when their last salary increase was or what percentage it was, but we looked at theirs, reviewed ours and we looked at a 50% increase straight across the board for all elected officials. That would generate an increase in our general budget of $26, 550.
Mr. Wilson asked is the 58% stretched out from 1985 to the present? What you are talking about is coming up with 50% all at once?
Ms. Pollitt said when you add the accruals in itís up to 76% in increase.
Mr. Wilson replied but that is over 15 years. Over the years I have talked with individuals about the last time we have had a raise and when are we going to do something about it, not that any of us rely on this salary as our livelihood, and not that we equate what we get with what we do. In that case, clearly weíre underpaid. I would balk at a 50% rate increase if I were a resident. I understand our employees coming up to that amount over fourteen years, but for us to vote ourselves a 50% raise in one fell swoop, I donít feel comfortable with. I would rather us look at a smaller percentage and put it on the ballot and let the people who elected us to office decide if whatever percentage we arrive at is acceptable. I think 50% is out of range.
Mr. Squires said Mr. Galster eloquently stated the term "borderline". In your legal opinion is this a borderline situation?
Mr. Schneider replied I would like to respond to several things Mr. Galster stated, if I could. Our conclusion is that it is within the law for this Council to grant itself an increase at this time. Prior to 1998, when the court ruled on this, it would not have been wise to grant a raise because the Ethics Committee had determined in their interpretation of the law, that somehow it would be a substantial and improper influence upon the public official with respect to the personís duties. That was the basis that the Supreme Court said that is not the case. You are granting yourself a pay increase for services to be rendered and as result of granting that pay increase, someone out there is not going to be benefited, or you are not doing it because of a special benefit. You are still performing your duties. The court ruled that the act of voting a pay increase, even for the benefit of oneself, cannot be considered the acceptance of something of value, that will influence oneís public actions substantially, improperly or otherwise. That is the whole basis that for years, the Ohio Ethics Commission has been maintaining you could not give pay increases. I advised this Council many years ago, even before the Ethics Commission was advised, that based on those code sections, thatís the way it did appear. The Court of Appeals, Fifth District, is quite clear that that is not an unreasonable interpretation and they do not feel that would be an influence and that the Ethics Commission, nor the courts should be determining that, but the Council should be determining their compensation, and that the ultimate measure will be one of reasonableness. Who will judge that reasonableness if you pass an increase at 100%, 50%, 2%? The voters because they will decide whether they thought you were reasonable, fair and just. Thatís why Iím sure the Administration and the Committee has checked out other compensations to try and measure that. The court is saying that is not a measure to indicate that it is unreasonable, unfair, or unjust. I do not think it is borderline. The Constitution is not an issue here. I think Mr. Galster meant the Statute. The Statute does prevent non-charter cities from doing that because they are controlled by the Statute, unless they have adopted a Charter and use the Constitution to their benefit. Article 18, Section 3 indicates that you may determine your own existence in matters that are not of statewide concern. This is one of local operation, not statewide concern. The Fifth District decision is the finding law as far as the State goes. This is the highest court to determine that. Mr. Galster is correct that the First District Court of Appeals could determine that they donít agree with that and you have a conflict, then it definitely goes to the Supreme Court for decision. It has not become an issue at this point before the First District Court of Appeals. This right now is the best law we have in the State of Ohio. Thatís why we feel confident rendering the opinion that we gave you, that you can grant that pay increase in-term at this time. Mr. Galster also is correct in that the opinion did not deal with an in-term pay increase, but a pre-term increase as they went into their term. But the Court of Appeals seemed to spell out clearly the basic substance, whether itís pre-term or in-term completely, does not make any difference. The act of voting a pay raise even for the benefit of oneself, cannot be considered the acceptance of something of value that will influence oneís public actions substantially, improperly or otherwise. Itís fairly paying you a compensation for a good job and as Mr. Wilson pointed out, there wouldnít be enough money available to pay you for a lot of the work that many of you do. Iíve been here to know it and see it. Itís a matter of decision by this Council whether now is the right time, or no time is the right time, but the law certainly offers you an opportunity if you so choose.
Mayor Webster said I would like to address Mr. Wilsonís comments about the 50% increase. Mr. Wilson, that is a big increase. It is a huge increase, but I think you have to put it into perspective. The fact is that we havenít done a ten here, ten here, ten here, as has been done from the inception of the City through 1985. The issue had been looked at every four, five or six years. As far as where the salaries would stand if you enacted a 50% increase, Councilís would be $6,750, another $600 for the President of Council. Sharonville Council members make $8,830 a year. A good part of the year they have one Council meeting. I think they take off the summer, at least they used to. Itís a big increase but letís put it in perspective. Blue Ash Council makes $6,600; Fairfield, $6,500; Woodlawn, $6,000; several over $5,000. I donít think $6,750 for the amount of work that is required of the Council people in this City is by any stretch of the imagination people not being overpaid. As far as my own salary, the salary is presently $12,000. A 50% increase would make it $18,000. Even with that increase there are still three cities in Hamilton County that are more than that. Harrison is $22,619; Reading, $21,309; and Sharonville is $27,850. Six are presently over ours and they average $19,296. Three are under and average $6,323 and one is the same as ours.
Mr. Wilson said I would feel more comfortable with an incremental increase, maybe over a period of one, two or four years, so that in the end we are up to par. I have not addressed this to any resident because I wasnít even aware of this until just now. Maybe our residents will say 50% is fine. Personally, I would probably feel more comfortable with an incremental change over a period of two years and put something in place so that the next Council and Administration will not have to make this kind of proposal. Maybe we can do it incrementally every two years, a percentage raise based on the economy. Maybe the electorate would feel more comfortable with incremental raises as opposed to a big fat one right now.
Mr. Galster said a couple of follow ups on the Fifth District Court of Appeals. Even though they did not think it could be considered accepting something of value, they all stated that the Court did recognize that the act of a pay raise in this potential self-serving nature may be found offensive. It was the first time the Ethics Commission actually took a Court of Appeals and appealed it to the Supreme Court. It was on this particular piece of legislation from the Fifth District Court. They did that with a unanimous decision, their position still being, that if in fact, it is something that is going to be found offensive then it still under their view of it falls within the ethical guidelines and we shouldnít be doing it. In response to Mayor Webster about the flag, itís a right versus wrong issue and what is legally defensible. Iím not equating us getting a pay raise to burning the flag but both things may possibly be defendable but that doesnít necessarily mean that they are right or wrong. I still donít understand if we donít want to wait for a re-election, why donít we just put it on the ballot. If you look at the ordinances Mr. Webster brought up, I believe all of them were enacted prior to a new Council being seated. With the exception of the one for President of Council, most of those ordinances were brought forth prior to the election. Bring it up in October, have it set for the election in November and the new people would get it in December. There was question whether it was fair for some members of Council to have an increase while others wonít have that opportunity for another two years because they would be in middle of term. I donít know what the other Councils did but all of those in my opinion, were post-election, pre-term that they were brought forth. This is a full in-term attempt here. I did do a little more research and the only time an elected official tried to put an in-term increase on the ballot, that was in Nevada and defeated by the voters by a 5 Ĺ to 1 margin. As far as the ethical questions I think anybody who has been reading the paper recently can look at stories about Lebanon as far as some of the actions that they did up there. They may be challengable ethically but there is a public outcry. I believe it is fundamentally wrong. I believe itís a question of either doing it right or doing it wrong. If we need to have an increase and we canít wait until the next election, then put it on the ballot this November during a general election. It doesnít cost the City a ton of money to let the voters decide.
Ms. Pollitt said I also want to bring up compensation issues with one of the other cities. I was informed that their increases are linked to the Hamilton County Commissioners so whenever the State gives the Commissioners an increase, itís an automatic for this Cityís elected officials to receive the same percentage of an increase. That is how they have maintained their elected officialsí salaries and thatís why they are not in the same situation we are in today. I know when we did speak at our meeting I was very much opposed to having different salaries for different people up here. We all make the decisions for the fiscal operations of this City as well as a lot of other things on the City and I feel we should all be compensated the same. I donít think itís fair that a few people have a different salary because of when they were elected. I think we are all equals. I donít know if there is any more to add on the Commissioners but if there is I think Doyle could fill us in on that.
Mrs. McNear stated a 50% increase seems like a tremendous percentage, but if you put this in perspective in dollars and cents, when it comes to Council it would be a $2200 increase which does not sound as horrible as saying Council is trying to vote themselves a 50% increase. Think back to what all of you were making fourteen years.
Ms. Pollitt said that is correct and when we looked at what other Council members were making in other cities recently, we are definitely below their pay level. None of us are doing this for pay. We all can look back at our public service over the years and everyone sitting up here has served scouts, sports, churches, PTAs, etc. so if we were doing it for pay we wouldnít be here. I think we all have a sense to serve in our community and this is something that does need to be addressed in some manner. I donít know what the correct vehicle for addressing it would be but I think itís good we can get it out on the floor and have open communication about it.
Mr. Knox said people have been using the term "big pay raise" when they talk about 50%. In 1969, which is the earliest we could research, Councilís salary was $960. In that same ordinance in 1971 it was advanced to $1200, which is a 25% increase in two years. Six years later in 1977 the salaries went to $2000 for Council members. Thatís an increase of 67% in six years. In 1981 it went to $3000, which percentage-wise is a 50% increase in four years. In 1986 it went to $4500, another 50% increase in just five years. Now weíre talking fourteen years so people, get real. If you think 50% is a whole lot, put the time in there please.
Mr. Danbury said Iíd like to respond to a few things. Number one, itís always awkward to talk about giving yourself a raise. It seems like we are giving ourselves a huge raise or discussing it. Mr. Wilson, as far as us phasing it in, I can understand but what if you do that, it just appears that you are trying to hide something. Your main objective is to reach this level. Basically you are backing into it. We make $4,500 a year. Sharonville, Blue Ash, etc. make more money. This is the kind of job they do and we do the same job. In some cases we have more meetings than them. Should we be compensated at the same amount. We would actually be compensated less. We are not in it for money but believe me, a lot of people donít realize that weíre not just here twice a month. We are here 24 hours a day and we did not run for election just so we could get this money. Many of us change our vacations. We are on 24 hours a day. The Mayor I know for a fact gets calls on his off day, his vacations. I remember one call he shared with me. He spent 2 Ĺ hours talking with someone on a holiday when everybody else has an opportunity to sit back and relax with their families. This is a 24 hour a day job whether we do something or not because we are representing this City. Mr. Galster brings up some very good points. Should we do it now or not? If we are going to vote on it, I donít know what to do. I still want to think about it. It is justified but I think the citizens should have some input on it. I know that six or seven years ago the City of Sharonville voted themselves a pay raise while they were in office and it wasnít challenged by the courts or the citizens.
Mayor Webster said there have been four salary adjustments that we can research and substantiate. They werenít easy votes and this is not an easy topic to talk about as Mr. Danbury says. Nobody likes to sit here and vote themselves a raise. The thought of putting it on the ballot is ludicrous. With all the decisions we have to make here, we may go out and talk to our constituents and get a feel for that, but we donít put issues like that on the ballot. We change the Charter, we have to put that on the ballot. We spent $8 million for a Community Center. We bent over backwards to solicit opinions from our residents, but we didnít put something of that magnitude on the ballot. Now we want to put a salary increase on the ballot. What resident, with all due respect to our constituents, knows the time, effort and dedication that has to go into public service? I would venture to say a very small part of those people so why should we ask those people to pass judgment on whether itís right or wrong for us to make $5, $10, $2,000 or $4,000. I think thatís the type of issues that we ought to have the courage and conviction to make one way or the other.
Mr. Galster said I happen to agree with Ms. Pollitt as far as staggering the pay for Council members. I donít particularly like that idea either. Thatís why I said it would have to be the year 2003 and that was too far away. Then put it on the ballot if you want to do something quicker. Everybody says itís not about pay but it is about pay. If it wasnít about pay we would just be putting it on the ballot or we would be passing an ordinance right now to take effect with the newly elected people. So it is about money. I donít know how else to look at it. I know that there were some comments made that certain people would support increased based on increases that are passed now as opposed to ones that are passed three years from now. To me that is applying more of a value to the individual who is holding the position than to the position itself. The idea that we passed the Community Center without putting it on the ballot, thatís what we are charged to do. Itís in our job description to make those kinds of decisions. Our job description in the past has never been to come up with what our salary should be in the middle of our election term. As the Law Director pointed out, it wasnít until 1998 that it even became okay to even consider doing that. Itís an ethical issue and I believe our residents would have feelings about ethical issues by this Council.
Mr. Squires said it all depends on how this is presented to the public and how itís presented in the press. For example, if the headlines in the local papers would say "Springdale votes 50% increase", thatís going to have one meaning. Another headline might be "Springdale Council votes for $2200 in increases." That would have an entirely different meaning. I agree with the Mayor. There are certain things you just donít put on the ballot and this is one of them. If Council thinks this is a worthwhile thing to do, ultimately the voters are going to have the decision anyway if they are up in rage about it. To me itís just how itís presented. A 50% increase sounds tremendously high, but if you talk about the dollars increase, it isnít that much.
Mr. Wilson said in response to what Mr. Danbury said about trying to show it like you are backing things in, our City employs get a raise every year and it hasnít been big increases every year, and we donít consider that backing in. I agree with Ms. Pollitt that all seated Council people should receive the same salary as opposed to staggering it. We all put in many, many hours on committee, etc. and our phones are available 24 hours a day to our constituents. From a certain standpoint I feel all of us should receive the same salary. Whether itís on the ballot or not, weíve put things on the ballot that Iíve disagreed with. It wasnít anything with the Charter; it was just a personal opinion that certain things should be changed and it was put on the ballot and voted on. I donít feel that just because we should have the intestinal fortitude to vote ourselves a raise we should not put it on the ballot. I donít feel salary is something we should not put on the ballot just because whatever reason.
Mr. Vanover said short of CEOs, elected public officials are probably the only ones who can have a say in their salary compensation. Everybody whoever worked a job would love to have that situation. You sit in job performance reviews and your whole thought process is "this isnít what Iím really worth." Be that as it may, this is the precarious situation we are in. Today being Groundhog Day is unique. If he sees his shadow, itís a month and a half of winter and if he doesnít, itís six weeks. You still have the same timeframe, folks. So do we do it in one fell swoop or do we back it in in stages. At any point somebody is going to be mid-term. Weíre not like the City of Cincinnati where the whole Council is re-seated. I donít think we should be. I think this adds some continuity to the way it was set up. Obviously the founding fathers who drew up the charter felt the same way and it lends stability to the City government. The point was made that if itís offensive to somebody then itís not ethical. Well, Iím sorry. We have all sat here and in one vote or another have offended people. You mention the Rec Center. We pleased a lot of people; we offended some people. Itís going to happen. Thatís the nature of this beast and we are just going to have to face it. I think weíre all in agreement that if we took this job for the pay, we kidded ourselves, because anybody who has sat through not just the Council meetings, Planning Commission meetings, Board of Zoning Appeals. I can remember a few years back sitting at a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting that was still going on at 1:00 in the morning. Whatís the compensation for that? We know that going in. When we put our hat in the ring to be elected we knew that. If you didnít you kidded yourself. Itís not a 9-5. Those of us who are married and have spouses, I know you get a phone call and get a dirty look from somebody. Or you have a child saying, "Dad, I have to be at practice." Well, Iím sorry, this phone call is important and itís going to take precedence. That is the nature of the beast and the end result is if people feel strongly that they disagree with this decision, they can take it to vote. They can call a referendum. It has been threatened in the past and the stage was set on at least one issue. So, yes, they still have a voice. Will it upset people? Yeah, some people will probably be upset but we are going to upset people with just about anything we do. I got a call from a lady in the neighborhood who was upset because I couldnít or wouldnít do anything about the way her neighbor chose to park his/her vehicle. Whether she likes it or not, itís a public street. We run into these situations on a daily basis and itís an unpopular topic. We have to pay to file our ethics report, how much we make, where we make it. If you want to sway numbers and percentages, letís keep it in perspective. Is it a month and a half or six weeks. Itís the same amount. If thatís what you are trying to do, letís be up front and be honest about it. Itís tough but it comes down to, we have to make a decision. Thatís what we were elected to do. Obviously, from the results of the survey of the City, the populous and electorate were very pleased with what we were doing. We may hear different; I donít know. Weíre trying to save our necks. I admit Iím one of the next to be re-elected. Districts are in two years. If it becomes an issue Iíll deal with that. Do I think weíre wrong? No, I donít. Do I feel uncomfortable in this situation? Yes, I do. When you look at the numbers we are well behind our neighbors? Do we do less than they do? No, I donít think we do. In most cases we probably do a whole lot more.
Mrs. McNear said weíre all up here to make tough decisions but it seems like this one is really tough and itís $26,000. We make million dollar decisions with less input than this. When I think about the $2200 and 50%, now if my boss came in to me tomorrow and said weíre giving you a 50% raise. If he came in and said youíre getting $2200 Iím not quite so happy. When we make decisions to run for Council and make the commitment to Council, itís like Mr. Danbury said, itís not just the meetings and phone calls. This is a decision that affects your entire family. I can remember when one of my sons said to me one time, "Mom, I hit a homerun for you for your anniversary." But guess what? I wasnít there; I was here. There was a double whammy on one night. There are plays that you miss for your children; there are concerts; many things you have to tell your children, "Iím sorry; I have a commitment." It also affects your family vacations. I try to plan my business trips around the weeks I donít have meetings. It is pretty much a full time commitment and pretty much everybody up here have full time jobs. They all have families. It is quite a bit of commitment. Any of us up here or people who have been on Council previously who have had teenagers, I can assure you that they donít like us to be public officials because they are very much in the public eye. Everybody knows who they are and we hear everything that they do. It is something that does affect the family and I donít think most of our constituents would be offended by a $2200 increase.
Mr. Squires asked Ms. Pollitt, what is the pleasure of your committee, to present this to Council at this time or a later time?
Ms. Pollitt replied we decided to bring this to Council for discussion. Thatís what we are doing this evening. As Mr. Galster and I stated, we could not come together and make a solid recommendation to Council because we had different viewpoints on it. We are going to listen to what Council wants and maybe go back to another Finance Committee meeting and review it again. It will totally be up to what Council wants. There are seven of us up here who need to make this decision. I would like a lot of input from everybody.
Mr. Squires asked will we be hearing from you at the next Council meeting?
Ms. Pollitt responded I donít know if we are going to be scheduling another meeting or not. I would like to hear what the rest of Council has to say. I need some direction on this from the rest of my members up here.
Mr. Squires said I would like to see your committee come forward to Council with a proposal. I donít think you should stay in committee with this. If the $2200 is fair you should so state that in the form of an ordinance or resolution for Council to adopt. I would like to see this done post haste.
Ms. Pollitt answered I appreciate your comments. There are two people from Council on the Finance Committee; Mr. Galster and me. Mr. Galster and I are at friendly odds on this. I need some input from the rest of Council on what you want me to do.
Mr. Squires asked being at odds would not prevent you from coming forth with a proposal, would it?
Ms. Pollitt replied I would have to research that. This is my first time on Council Finance Committee and Iím not positive of the direction that I would need to take on that.
Mayor Webster said I would like to address the comments about putting this on the ballot and this is not within our domain. The Charter very clearly states that the compensation of the Mayor, Finance Director and Council shall be established by Council. Itís not that itís unprecedented. Iím sure Mr. Schneider doesnít like giving us a letter every year asking for an increase. The point is itís not a pleasant thing but it is clearly within Councilís right and obligation to do. In response to Mr. Squiresí question on what happens next, the Administration is willing to research anything, get you any information. I donít know of anything that is outstanding that we havenít given the two Finance Committee members. I think Mr. Galster has stated his position very well and Ms. Pollitt has stated her position very well. I donít think any amount of meetings is going to result in a joint recommendation that is going to be supported by both members of the Finance Committee. If anyone wants more information we would be more than happy to research it. If not, then I think itís up to Council to ask for an ordinance to be brought in. Then you find out if you have four votes for it.
Mr. Danbury said in answer to your question that you donít know the proper way, any Council person can bring forth any kind of legislation. Even if you are the chair and are in disagreement with somebody, a vice-chair or someone on the committee can bring something forth. There are many instances that people are in total opposition to something but theyíll bring it forth to the Council knowing that they are going to vote against it, but itís still up to the seven members of Council. I said a few things and Mr. Vanover said a few things and I think we all mentioned that we are not complaining about being up here. We talk about how we have to reschedule everything. We have to be on various committees, etc. I think each of us consider it an honor and a privilege. I donít think itís lip service because thatís why we keep coming back. Itís a lot of fun to be involved in this but it does take a lot of work. It is an uncomfortable situation but basically itís bottom line. We are not necessarily voting ourselves a raise; weíre voting the office a raise. Is the person who is going to occupy your position worth the money that is the going rate? Itís really below it. There have been no pay increases in fifteen years. Weíre not here for money. Is it worth the money they are looking for? Mr. Squires hit it right on the head. If you say itís 50%, then that would be the headlines. That would be a $2200 increase. Iím not going to lose any sleep if it goes down. Iím not going out and buy a brand new house if we get it. I think everybody has an opinion. Council would go from $4,500 to $6,750; the Mayor from $12,000 to $18,000; and the Clerk of Council/Finance Director would go from $9,600 to $14,400.
Mr. Squires said I would propose to Council that we propose an ordinance for an increase for the Council of the City of Springdale to be acted on at the February 16 Council meeting. Council salary would go from $4,500 to $6,750; President of Council, $5,100 to $7,350; Mayor from $12,000 to $18,000; Clerk of Council from $9,600 to $14,400.
Mr. Wilson asked is the increase for each person going to be listed? Most of the discussion has centered around the increase for Council.
Mr. Galster said just to clarify, Mr. Wilson, the President of Council did not get a 50% raise. A 50% raise was added to Council and then the difference was carried over for the President. I only have two or three more comments. In reference to missing your kidsí homeruns, etc., you are going to miss that stuff whether you are making $4,000, $6,000, $20,000. You are going to get the phone calls. You have to deal with the residents. I still think that there are certain decisions that we make up here that are tough decisions and we have to look ourselves in the mirror and say they were right or wrong but those are what we are charged with doing. As Mayor Webster pointed out in the Charter, I donít doubt that we are charged with setting the compensation for Council, the Mayor and Clerk of Council. I donít question our responsibility to do that. I just question the timing. Thatís all. Mr. Schneider, have there been any other in-term increases?
Mr. Schneider replied none that I am aware of. I have heard that several are being considered at this time. Iíve never looked at the question of whether there have been any previously.
Mayor Webster said I would like to clarify the request that Mr. Squires had to bring in an ordinance. I feel very strongly that that should not have an emergency clause. It should have two readings and go into effect thirty days beyond that. If we are concerned about our constituents, if anybody bothers to watch this playback on TV they will have ample opportunity to come up and talk about it. There will be a reading at the next meeting. It would be voted on at the following meeting and go into effect April 1. There are two other opportunities before this is voted on by Council if anyone has a problem. Every agenda has two sections for communications by the audience. We all have e-mail, phones; letís us know.
Mrs. McNear stated we also have a member of the press present if you would like to publish the number to the City. Also, weíre all in the phone book. Weíre always interested in hearing the feedback from the residents of the City of Springdale.
Mr. Squires said I want to thank the Mayor for bringing that up and I request that my proposal contain the "no emergency" clause.
Mr. Danbury said I think this City is unique when you think about the efforts we try to make to incorporate the community in every decision that we make. For the last ten to twelve years we have been on cable TV. We spend a lot of money and a lot of time doing surveys. We do newsletters, everything we can to let the people know. If we had any hidden agenda this would have been buried and we would have picked a meeting when weíd be here until midnight and most people would not have seen it. Due to the fact that you did bring it to the forefront right now and we did have some discussion, I think it has been a very good discussion up here and I just wanted to make that comment. Itís a tough decision but we should make it.
Mrs. McNear said, Mr. Galster, you are absolutely right. I would have missed that game whether it was for $4,000, $6,000 or $0. Thatís the commitment that we all make and I would do this job whether there was pay or not because I think itís very important to give back to the community you live in. Iím not running. I have three years and ten months left on my term so itís not something I have to say to garner any votes. All of us do make a tremendous commitment and obviously $4,500 or $6,700 does not compensate for the time, but we do it because we are interested in the best interest of Springdale.
MEETINGS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Planning Commission - February 8
Board of Health - February9
Board of Zoning Appeals - February 15
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE - none
UPDATE ON LEGISLATION STILL IN DEVELOPMENT
Public Hearing Ė Zoning Code - February 16
Vacating McClellans Lane - open
Purchase of 2000 Dodge Ram Ĺ ton Pickup - February 16
Purchase of 2000 GMC ĺ ton Pickup - February 16
RECAP OF LEGISLATIVE ITEMS REQUESTED
Compensation Ė Public Officials - February 16
Council adjourned at 8:48.
Edward F. Knox
Clerk of Council/Finance Director
Kathy McNear, President of Council