MOUNT VERNON — After making changes to the proposed salaries for the auditor and mayor positions, Mount Vernon city council members approved pay increases for the city's elected officials.
Mayor Richard Mavis recommended the auditor's position be brought closer to that of the mayor because of the good job that Auditor Terry Scott has done over the years.
By a 4 to 2 vote, council amended the 2020 salary for the auditor position to $70,398, up $2,000 from the proposed rate of $68,398. Councilmen Matt Starr and Mike Hillier cast the no votes.
By a 4 to 1 vote, council amended the 2020 salary for the mayor position to its 2019 rate of $70,557, down from the proposed 2% increased rate of $71,968. Councilman Sam Barone dissented; Starr abstained as he is running for mayor in the November 2019 General Election.
The $68,398 for the auditor also reflects a 2% increase, the same increase given to members of the city's bargaining units earlier in the year. Hillier disagreed with the $70,398 number because historically, elected officials receive the same increase as the bargaining units.
“I understand what [the Mayor's] trying to do, and Terry's doing a good job, but this is not a good thing to do at this time,” said Hillier. “Somewhere government has to act like the real world.”
Citing the example of the safety-service director position, Council President Bruce Hawkins said that council has made adjustments in the past. Hillier countered by saying the SSD adjustment was because the SSD at the time took on the responsibilities of the engineering department in addition to his normal duties. The city has since hired a city engineer who is responsible for those duties.
Barone said he sees a distinct difference between the mayor, auditor, and law director positions and that of a council member.
“It's part time for council, it's full time for them,” he said. “I think if you polled most senior leadership positions … you will find a 2% raise will be low.”
Supporting the parity of the auditor's salary with the mayor's, Barone said, “We want strong candidates to come to city government and bring their talents.”
Regarding the $1,411 difference between the mayor's current salary and the proposed $71,968, Barone said it was a “mere pittance.”
“It is a good investment to continue to attract the best and brightest,” he said. “It makes no sense to leave the mayor's salary where it is when all of the other salaries would be raised. Don't look at the person filling the position, look at the position.”
“If you are looking at the money, then you are in the wrong position,” said Councilman John Francis. “Are you really working for the citizens?”
After council's unanimous vote to accept the amended ordinance, the following compensation rates will be effective for 2020-23:
- Mayor: $70,557, $71,968, $73,407, $74,875
- Auditor: $70,398, $71,806, $73, 242, $74,707
- Law Director: $104,899, $106,997, $109,137, $111,320
Council member and council president positions remain unchanged at $8,378.
Council also took the following actions during Monday's meeting:
- Postponed indefinitely legislation transferring $300,000 from the city's reserve fund to pay for repairs to the Knox Cattle Company Dam on Yauger Road
- Gave a second reading to legislation contracting for engineering services for water/wastewater improvements to the Buckeye Addition and Parrott Street extension
- Gave a second reading to legislation accepting the recommendations of the Tax Incentive Review Council regarding abatements
- Gave a second reading to legislation contracting for sludge removal
- Approved appropriations and transfers. Appropriations include $1.1 million from the Ariel Foundation for the Newark/Blackjack Road sidewalk, $47,718 from water liens, $121,161 from Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, and $812.50 from We Luv Pets fundraiser for the city's K-9 unit
- Authorized the sale or trade of city vehicles
- Approved the depositories for city funds
In a Budget and Finance Committee meeting earlier in the evening, Chris Connelly of the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister gave an overview of what a CRA (Community Reinvestment Area) is. Potential developer Joel Mazza is asking the city to create a CRA for the former middle school on Mulberry Street.
CRAs give tax abatements to property owners who make substantial renovations to their property. Connelly said the CRA must contain at least two homes and can be stair-stepped to grant 100% abatement the first year, 90% the second, and so on.
He said it is possible to hold schools harmless (meaning the schools still get money), but it is more challenging to structure in a residential CRA compared to a commercial CRA. He also said it is possible to ask the developer to make contributions to the schools.
Law Director Rob Broeren reminded council members that council rescinded a previous CRA for the middle school property due to noncompliance and that it could do so again if Mazza fails to follow through on development plans.