North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy, his two top directors and four ward City Council members are considering giving up their raises in 2022 and 2023 because of the financial hardship brought on by COVID-19.
An ordinance introduced at City Council’s Nov. 17 meeting aims to change the raise structure that would begin during the next term, which would include 2% increases in ‘22 and ‘23, followed by 2.5% in ‘24 and 2% in ‘25. If passed by the end of the year, only those final two raises would remain.
Besides Kennedy, the salary freeze would affect Finance Director Carrie Copfer, Law Director Michael Gareau and council members Lou Brossard (Ward 1), Chris Glassburn (Ward 2), Paul Schumann (Ward 3) and Mary Ellen Hemann (Ward 4).
They will each receive a 2% increase next year because salaries are set in legally binding four-year terms in advance of their start date, per the city’s charter. An attempt to forgo a salary or raise during a term would be struck down as an invalid action, according to Gareau. The current salary term ends Dec. 31, 2021.
Kennedy’s salary next year will be $111,338.10, the finance director’s will be $108,906.75, the law director’s $68,905.53, and council president and four ward council members $14,635.57.
The three at-large council members, Duane Limpert, Angela Williamson and Patrick Kelly, will receive $14,252.59 and have salary terms set through the end of 2023.
“With employees this year going through furloughs and next year looking rough, we wanted to kind of match that with dual zeros (on raises) for elected officials,” Glassburn said.
Usually, pay raises for council members, the mayor, the finance director and the law director would remain in line with union contracts awarded to staff members. In ‘22 and ‘23, for example, new service and fire department union contracts will include 2.5% raises over that two-year span.
This time, it felt right to do something different.
“It’s trying to lead by example,” Brossard said. “Naturally, everybody would love a raise every year. But in a pandemic economy, we have to be realistic and fiscally responsible and try to lead by example with those suggested zero-zero increases the first two years. That’s just our attempt to do so.”
Brossard, the senior member of council, began his tenure in Ward 1 in March of 2009, when the national housing crisis sparked a major economic recession. During a recent meeting he noted that, at the time, council voted to get rid of pay increases for a three-year period.
“We essentially did the same thing 10 years ago,” he said. “It was for the very same reasons – to lead by example. And I think it went over well. More importantly, the city workers understand the situation. In the grand scheme of things, no raise for the first two years is better than the alternative, which would be layoffs and furloughs.”
Once the pandemic forced shutdowns and a stay-at-home order in the spring, the city was forced to save on costs by trimming staff. In April, 50 people were furloughed across the finance, human resources, planning, engineering and safety departments, as well as in the mayor’s office, the recreation center and the senior center. Part-time employees at the rec center and Springvale Golf Course were laid off.
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