Mayor Brad McCloud's decision to use executive authority to give Reynoldsburg's parks and recreation director a $10,000 raise isn't sitting well with Councilman Cornelius McGrady III, who said Monday he will not support a city income tax request because of it.
There was no action taken Monday on a resolution requesting a tax increase from 1.5 percent to 2 percent. The full council was expected to vote on it last week but did not and sent it back to the finance committee.
"I am not happy with the way this was handled," McGrady said at the July 21 council committee meetings.
McCloud confirmed after the meetings that he authorized the raise for Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Brown from the payroll portion of the department budget.
"Joe shared with me that he had received an offer from another community that would pay him more than we are paying him," McCloud said.
"He is by far the lowest-paid parks and recreation director in central Ohio. I approved the raise to keep Joe in Reynoldsburg and bring his salary a little closer to what it should be."
Brown was hired in December 2012 at an annual salary of $64,238, with benefits valued at $17,000.
"Joe has brought important sponsorship dollars to our city since he was hired that have more than paid for that raise," McCloud said.
McGrady said he asked City Attorney Jed Hood about the mayor's authority to grant the raise without council approval. Hood confirmed that city code does give the mayor the ability to authorize the expenditure.
"We are wrestling for dollars in this city and I don't like the message this could give to our residents," McGrady said. "We have to build the honesty back."
He said the main issue he heard from the community when he ran for office was the lack of trust and transparency in city leaders.
"I will not knowingly be a part of the lack of transparency and intellectual dishonesty," McGrady said.
Council approved a 3-percent cost-of-living raise for non-contract city workers in April, retroactive to Jan. 1. It cost the city about $100,000, according to City Auditor Richard Harris. He said it had been three years since those employees received a salary increase.
On Tuesday, July 22, McCloud defended his action, citing a 2013 survey by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission that showed Reynoldsburg's $64,238 salary for its parks and recreation director was $26,054 less than the next-highest salary of $90,292 paid to Grove City's parks and recreation director.
The highest salaries in the study were $104,000 and $106,059 paid to parks directors in Dublin and Westerville, respectively.
In addition, McCloud said, other administrators' salaries in Reynoldsburg are below par.
"The disparity of salaries of other cities' directors and ours are substantial," he said. "Our service director makes $74,000. His counterpart in Gahanna makes over $96,221. Grove City's service director makes $94,473. Westerville's service director makes over $97,000."
He said he has been in office for more than six years and in that time, Reynoldsburg has had four different service directors and four street superintendents.
"The city lost a development director to a 'city' of 7,000 people because it paid more," McCloud said. "We lost a street superintendent to West Jefferson, a village of 4,200 people. It paid more than we pay."
Council members also raised concerns Monday about higher fees being charged for some recreation department programs.
Councilwoman Leslie Kelly asked Brown to explain the "big jump" in the city's youth soccer fees from $45 per child to $90 after the city partnered with the Columbus Crew to create the Crew Juniors recreational soccer program.
"Part of my concern is that a $90 fee is double what residents were paying per child," she said.
"Columbus Crew would also get most of those fees, since the city would get only $10 to $15 per registration," she said. "I hope we don't lose a large amount of families. I think $90 is too much."
Brown said he understood Kelly's concerns.
"I wish the programs could be free," he said. "But we have been the lowest show in town for a long time. We had to raise baseball fees $10 this year, for instance, in order to buy new equipment."
He said the fact the Columbus Crew organization would use its own employees to oversee the youth soccer program meant city employees could be delegated to supervise other sports. The Crew will also pay game officials' salaries and provide free training for coaches.
"A lot of what we do is helping communities," said Josh Racette, director of the Crew soccer program. "We are excited that this year, we can offer a six-week program and a coaching curriculum to train volunteer coaches.
"We can also offer a technical development opportunity for kids, such as a Friday skills night. We are excited about where we are at and for the future."
Racette said the program provides a $7.50 discount for multiple players within a family and also offers some scholarships.
"I don't see how it helps us to farm out our sports program," Councilman Mel Clemens said. "I think it should be an in-house program."
Councilman Barth Cotner said he appreciated that the original fee of $125 for the Crew youth program was reduced to $90.
"I'm glad there was a willingness to work on that," he said.