Reynoldsburg City Council must decide this month whether to give City Auditor Richard Harris a pay raise in order for it to take effect Jan. 1.
"Once his term commences on Jan. 1, you cannot increase or decrease his salary," City Attorney Jed Hood told finance committee members at their Dec. 2 meeting. "Whatever you decide will be for his entire four-year term."
Councilwoman Monica DeBrock said Harris hasn't had a pay raise in nine years.
"You can't expect people to work hard and not pay them a fair salary," she said.
Harris' annual salary is at $72,494, said Councilman Scott Barrett, who agreed the city auditor should get a salary increase.
"I would support a 6-percent increase starting Jan. 1, with 2 percent for the years after, so it would be a 12-percent increase by the end of the four-year term," Barrett said.
Reynoldsburg City Council froze salaries for elected officials in 2009; that move affected Harris' salary and those for council members Barth Cotner, Chris Long and Nathan Burd, who is now the city's service director, for their four-year terms.
In 2011, council agreed to freeze salaries for the other council members, who are currently paid $7,499.88 per year, and for Mayor Brad McCloud and City Attorney Jed Hood, who earn $97,803.10 annually.
Councilman Cornelius McGrady III said a salary raise for an elected official might send the wrong message to taxpayers who turned down to the city's request for an income-tax increase Nov. 5.
"We appreciate Mr. Harris' work, but we don't know what our revenue is going to be in 2014," McGrady said. "We are in a position where we now have to do more with less until we can determine where we are going as a city.
"To do a raise of any sort after the defeat of the tax levy is sending the wrong message to taxpayers," he said.
The discussion prompted two residents to speak up during the meeting. Gary Knapp and Carrie Acosta both said they would support a raise for Harris.
"I think he has done an outstanding job," Knapp said. "If you don't give him a raise, you are missing a heck of a chance to bring him up where he should be. I think he has saved the city a lot of money in the past."
McGrady said he knew of at least one instance where the auditor had saved the city $687,000 by refinancing a bond.
"It seems to be that even in tough times, you need to look at institutional knowledge," Acosta said. "I would be in favor of cutting something like the city fireworks before you say no to a raise for a city official who could go somewhere else."
Councilman Mel Clemens said he would be in favor of a raise for the auditor, but thought council should also consider some kind of raise for city employees.
Finance committee Chairman Barth Cotner said most members seemed to agree "we need to do something" about the auditor's salary, at least.
"He has gone all these years without a raise," he said. "By not giving him a raise, we might also be sending the message that we don't value our people."