ELYRIA – Seven of 10 Elyria Council members on Monday approved raises for the city`s mayor, auditor and law director, though the Council rejected – by a 5-to-5 vote – a wage increase that was proposed for the Council president and Council committee members.
The initial wage increase that was drafted last week for the city`s full-time elected officials – Mayor Bill Grace, Law Director Pete Shilling and Auditor Ted Pileski – had suggested an annual increase of about 2.5 percent from 2008 to 2011.
Over the weekend, however, Councilman Tom Callahan, D- at large, revamped the proposal and offered his colleagues an amended version, which Council members passed on Monday.
Callahan said his amended version was a compromise with the city`s three administrators since it offered them raises for just three of the next four years – beginning in 2009 – rather than raises for each of the next four years.
“These are full-time positions,” Callahan said, referring to the three administrators. “We tried to set an example and show some restraint. The citizens in Elyria are struggling financially, so I thought it would obviously be a good idea to show leadership on this. It`s more of a symbolic move — and it was the right thing to do.”
Councilman Vic Stewart, D-at large, said he would have liked to have seen the three administrators receive pay raises for just two years rather than three, but he agreed to the measure because the Grace, Pileski and Shilling “are committed to hard work and rededicating themselves.”
Councilwoman Bonnie Ivancic, D-4th Ward, said afterward that she supported the increases for the Council members because it was a token amount that rewarded the hard work of committee members.
She opposed the increases for the administrators, however, because she thinks they are too costly for the city.
“With our depressed economy, this is not the time to give raises like that,“ said Ivancic, who lost her bid for re-election and will leave the Council at the end of December. “They knew what their salary was when they ran.“
Council members who voted against raises across the board were Garry Gibbs, R-3rd Ward, and Jack Baird, R-at-large.
“I think we`re already the highest paid Council in the county,” Baird said. “There are a lot of people who don`t have jobs today. We have to show leadership and establish some credibility.”
Baird`s comments were met by applause from about two dozen citizens who attended Monday`s meeting.
Gibbs said approving the raises for administrators was a mistake, and he said that comparing the administrators` raises to other city workers` raises amounted to skewing the data, since city workers on the whole make far less than the mayor, law director and auditor.
“This isn`t over,” Gibbs said, adding that he hopes there`s a way next year`s new Council members can revisit the issue.
Among those new members is Kevin Krischer, an independent who won the 5th Ward seat this month.
Krischer said he wouldn`t have supported the raises because city officials already are receiving a built-in raise with the city`s longevity pay, which rewards employees by giving them a 1-percent bonus of their salary each year, up to 20 years.
An employee with 20 years of service who makes $100,000 in their 20th year, for instance, would make an additional $20,000 that year for longevity pay.
There was nary a resident in attendance who supported any of the raises.
“I believe we hired people, and they just asked for a raise after we hired them,” said Mark Hamister, 54, a retired manufacturer. “I was glad to see (Baird) and (Gibbs) say no.”
Resident Jim Slone added: “Why in the world should these guys get a cost-of-living increase? Why should they get any kind of increase? Nobody else is getting one.”
Both Hamister and Slone have unsuccessfully sought Council seats in past elections.
Elyria firefighters union Vice President Dean Marks said it made no sense that administrators received a raise when the city hasn`t hired any new firefighters to cut down on the Fire Department`s overtime budget.
“I`m not saying they didn`t deserve a raise,” Marks said. “Maybe they do. But it`s taken a year and a half for the firefighters, and we still haven`t gotten one. They got one in less than a week.”