Council members discuss elected official raises

Whether or not a proposal to give elected city officials a pay raise in their next terms hits the Bellefontaine City Council floor will depend on the Finance Committee.

Chairwoman Deb Baker held a council-as-whole meeting after Tuesday’s regular meeting to discuss fellow committeeman David Haw’s suggestion to raise the $4,600 annual council member pay.

It has not been changed since legislative action in 2001. That change started in 2004 after the 2003 election cycle.

The proposal comes as the council acted on first readings to increase pay for service and clerical workers and for supervisors and department heads.

Service and clerical workers will receive a two-percent raise under measures while supervisors and department heads were given raises of varying levels.

Firefighters and police officers already have received a two-percent raise.

This is the second consecutive year the city has given raises after several years of no increases. 

Mrs. Baker, Mr. Haw and Peter DeSomma, the third member of the Finance Committee, will further discuss elected official raises and decide if and when the matter goes before the entire council.

Council members were divided on the subject, but both Mr. Haw and Mr. DeSomma seem to support the idea of putting a compensation ordinance on the agenda.

Mayor Adam Brannon collected data on salaries for elected officials in cities of the similar size.

The average councilman pay is a little more than $5,300. Council presidents on average receive nearly $6,600 compared to Bellefontaine’s $5,600.

Mayoral pay for both part-time and full-time mayors is more than $43,000 compared to the city’s $28,500.

Part-time law directors are paid nearly $55,000 a year compared to more than $49,000 in Bellefontaine.

“If we’re going to give ourselves raises, I would like to see us set it at the average,” Mr. DeSomma said of the council pay. “We ought to value ourselves at least to what the average is.”

Councilmen Jerry Pitzer and Allen Hadley opposed council pay raises.

“My position is the same,” Mr. Pitzer said. “I’m against us getting a raise. We’ve been asking the city workers to tighten their belts and tighten their belts and I think it would be sending the wrong message.

“I would support an increase for the mayor.”

Mr. Pitzer said he doesn’t support a council raise and especially hitting the average. “I can’t see it going that high,” he said.

Council members Diane Hager and Jim Sanford both said they would serve without a raise, but understand increasing elected official pay could encourage others to run, a central tenant of Mr. Haw’s position.

Mr. Haw also said the cost of being a councilman continues to increase which should be covered by the annual pay.

Council members may discuss the issue again at the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26.