Marysville City Council is considering whether to switch the job of law director from a part-time to a full-time position, with an accompanying increase in salary.
Council heard the first reading of an ordinance May 23 that, if approved, would make the job full time starting Jan. 1, 2014. It also would establish a base salary of $98,000 in 2014 with increases of $2,000 each year, ending at $104,000 in 2017.
The ordinance further stipulates that a full-time law director could not maintain an outside private practice, something Marysville law directors have typically done. The law director's salary has not been increased since Jan. 1, 2006.
The position is currently filled part-time by Tim Aslaner.
"We have had many conversations over the years of the need for a full-time law director," Mayor John Gore said. "At the end of the day, his role is to keep us out of trouble, not get us out of trouble. It sometimes takes one, two or three days to get your answers because the guy has to make a living outside of (being) part-time law director."
The ordinance cites the city's growth and an increasing use of the law director's services by the administration and council as reasons for the change.
Councilwoman Deborah Groat said the proposed salary is reasonable.
"I don't see how you can ask an attorney to come to the city for less than the dollar figure and not currently have a private practice. We are giving up some dollars but gaining full-time and unique-to-the-city legal advice," Groat said.
Councilman Henk Berbee, chairman of the finance committee, expressed concern about spending more money on top of the millions of dollars already spent on building a new fire station, police and court facility, and a Municipal Services Complex.
The city asked the voters in 2009 for $20 million for two new buildings.
"Because of the economic times and interest rates, we spent $16.8 million in the building and the fire station as well as the municipal court," Berbee said. "We saw another opportunity and we went out on a limb and spent $3.5 million for the new city hall for a total of $20.3 million. So we're still $300,000 over.
"If we add this $40,000 to $50,000 a year over the next four years, we're looking at almost a quarter of a million dollars and that's what concerns me."
Gore said Marysville voters were asked for an increase in income tax so the safety service buildings could be constructed. Officials projected the increase would generate more than $4 million in revenue; according to Gore, it has generated more than $5 million each year since it's been in place.
"If we would have just built the two buildings, we would stand still again. We're making up for the last 30 years of doing nothing," Gore said. "Yes, we have a lot of building going on, but the infrastructure we're building today will serve this community for the next 40-50 years."
He noted that Union County is the third-fastest growing county in Ohio and there is more economic development on the table.
"If you're going to be a 'no' vote for whatever reason, you better be prepared to make a lot of 'no' votes because there's going to be a lot of economic development coming this way that's going to require council action," he said.
Council President Nevin Taylor said there has been a lot of time spent thinking about upgrading the law director position.
"We are asking someone to give us full-time legal protection and paying them half-time," he said. "Yes, we do see an increase in the budget, but that increase does not take place until next year's budget, 2014, if the legislation is passed today."
Berbee said his main concern is that officials do not have a complete picture yet of the city's financial status.
"If this very same thing were to come up in September or October after we have eight or nine months of financial data, then we know the financial well-being of the city. Currently, we don't know that and that is what my hesitation is," Berbee said.
Taylor asked City Finance Director Jenny Chavarria to bring as much financial information as possible to the next finance committee meeting June 20 to help give a more complete picture of city finances.
"I think there are going to be tough decisions," he said. "The argument I'm hearing is the same decision we made years ago (2005) when we had to decide if the judge were going to go full time."