Most Gahanna City Council members seem to agree that city employees deserve a 3-percent pay increase this year.

Most Gahanna City Council members seem to agree that city employees deserve a 3-percent pay increase this year.

During a Jan. 23 council committee meeting, council member David Samuel presented what he called a "common-sense approach" concerning the request from the administration to give 86 employees a pay raise that would cost a total of $105,492 this year.

"If I go to my boss and say I want a raise, the boss would say, 'What have you done? Have you produced more or saved us money?'" Samuel said. "As a citizen and member of council, you need to answer the question. We're your bosses and represent the citizens."

Human-resources director Sue Wadley said many positions have not been filled, so employees are doing more with less.

"Nonbargaining employees haven't received a raise since 2009," she said. "Their insurance rates have gone up. They've received additional responsibilities and duties. There are few positions that haven't taken on added responsibilities in the last few years."

Assistant city administrator Brandi Braun said a parks-and-recreation superintendent retired, and his duties are being distributed among others in the department.

"The police department is down five officers, and that affects the chief and deputy chief," she said.

Samuel said he appreciates the work of city employees, and, in his opinion, they deserve a raise.

Council member Karen Angelou asked why 2012 is the year to give increases.

"In 2009, 2010 and 2011, council chose not to give an increase and made that choice," she said. "What has changed in 2012 that there feels to be a need?"

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said cuts were made to get through a difficult economic time.

"We made cuts to get through, and I think this is deeper and longer than anyone anticipated," she said. "I believe this is our new reality. I think it will be like this for some time. The tactical approach we took, we can't do for the long term."

She said the city has delayed capital improvements, and those don't get done by themselves.

"We're talking about people who make these things happen," Stinchcomb said. "That's what has changed. It has been three years."

Council member Ryan Jolley said the loss of three city directors - former human-resources director Kristin Treadway, service director Terry Emery and finance director Angel Mumma - also has prompted changes. He said there's a direct correlation between performance and the amount employees are paid.

"The better you pay, the better the caliber candidate and employee you receive," he said. "Folks have been leaving because they've done such a good job for Gahanna. I think it's our responsibility to employ the best employees we can get." Stinchcomb said the employees who would receive raises supervise others who are responsible for every service expected of the city.

"I'll defend every one of these employees," she said. "We've been asking for more every year out of less people. After three years, I'm asking you to reward these employees who worked so hard without anything the last three years."

Council member Brian Larick said the city has benefited from a shared sacrifice among employees who haven't received raises. He said the proposed increase represents a nominal amount for the work the employees perform.

Council member Stephen Renner said he doesn't want to risk losing the level of service to residents. He said Gahanna's salary and benefits amount to 46 percent of the general fund, adding that with most other suburbs, it's closer to 60 percent or more of the general fund.

"Over the past three years, there have been no raises," he added. "It's time to come up."