EAST LIVERPOOL - Despite a plea by a resident to not raise their salary, City Council members did just that by a unanimous vote Monday night, finalizing legislation which had previously received some opposition from council members.
The ordinance increases the salaries of council members, president of council, council clerk and treasurer to $600 per month, compared to the current $350 per month.
By taking this step, council ensured that the 10 positions covered will retain full credit toward Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) pension benefits.
Council also had the option of raising the salaries to $1,000 per month, which would have ensured health benefits for those positions upon retirement, but the lower rate was decided upon, which will cost about $35,000 more per year.
By opting for the lower rate, council was able to place $60,000 into the fire fund earmarked for hiring an additional firefighter. It is up to the administration, not council, to actually decide whether a firefighter is hired.
Woodbine Avenue resident Dave Martin addressed council about the increase, saying it was his impression members did not believe $35,000 to be a "lot of money," but pointing out the city is short on employees in many departments, has streets in "terrible" condition and dilapidated housing and a swimming pool that is not fully funded.
"That $35,000 could go to 35,000 different places than increasing your salaries," Martin said, adding he did not believe council members ran for offices for the salary and that "the right thing to do it not to take that raise but to do things to benefit all the people in town."
Council passed the legislation without comment, although later in the meeting, Councilman Ray Perorazio said the salary increase "should have been done a long time ago," because "nobody wants these (council) jobs; they're thankless and no one pats you on the back," concluding that, "Maybe this (increase) will get some others to step up and run."
A retired city firefighter, Perorazio also said, "We did this for the fire department, so I hope we get (a new firefighter)."
Council also passed an ordinance authorizing a contract with the city of Cleveland to collect delinquent income taxes, at no cost to the city, which Treasurer-elect Kathy Buzzard told council will be "a great opportunity."
A second ordinance authorized the city tax commissioner to offer an amnesty period from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 of next year during which taxpayers can bring their delinquent taxes into compliance without penalties or fees.
Councilman Ryan Stovall reported he contacted both Dayton and Bedford, which take advantage of the same service from Cleveland and have found it to be a success.
In other legislative matters, council approved ordinances authorizing bidding and contracting for electrical upgrades to the water treatment plant and adjusting year-end appropriations.
Mayor Jim Swoger reported 400 tons of salt was ordered that day, bringing the total to 800 tons for this winter thus far, with the city's allotment for the year being 1,200 tons.
He said more than 80 phone calls pertaining to icy streets were fielded Monday by his office and the service-safety department but reminded residents that salt is not effective under 18 degrees and that gravel is being mixed with it.
Swoger and his wife, Amy, provided cookies and coffee after last night's meeting, which was the last before Christmas.
Councilman Sherrie Curtis noted that two former council members, Rich Ruble and Donal Burcham, had died in recent days and should be remembered for their service.