Gahanna hopes to lead the way for other Ohio suburbs in urging Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly to re-examine and reconsider state laws that limit local governments' ability to control personnel costs.

Gahanna hopes to lead the way for other Ohio suburbs in urging Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly to re-examine and reconsider state laws that limit local governments' ability to control personnel costs.

The Gahanna City Council was expected to approve on Feb. 22 two resolutions, one dealing with the inability to control personnel costs because of state laws and the other asking for a re-examination of state laws regarding prevailing wage.

City council member John McAlister initiated the legislation, and he urges every central Ohio suburb and the city of Columbus to follow suit.

"Both of these resolutions are really an effort on behalf of the people of Gahanna to state our financial plight to the General Assembly and the governor," he told ThisWeek. "This is very important. There is public support for reform."

"With public employee unions, you have a government-sanctioned monopoly within a monopoly itself," he added. "The law needs to change."

McAlister said the city's hands "were tied" in December, when he voted against legislation concerning a Steelworkers Health and Welfare agreement for insurance.

"As far as I can tell, it allows a $100-deductible health insurance plan," McAlister said. "I don't think I have a single constituent that has a $100-deductable for health care."

At that time, he said Gahanna couldn't continue providing insurance with those types of deductibles, because the city is hurting financially.

Finance director Angel Mumma and human resources director Kristen Treadway went to the Ohio Statehouse last week to watch the introduction of Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Sen. Shannon Jones (R-Springboro).

If approved, the bill would revise collective bargaining laws.

"We'll participate if we see a benefit for us," Mumma told council last week.

Brian Hoyt, Gahanna public information manager, said Treadway did share Gahanna's experience concerning a recent fact-finding and arbitration process.

"We're advocating reform and improvement in the arbitration process," Hoyt said. "We're not anti-collective bargaining."

The personnel cost draft resolution states that Gahanna employs over 270 full- and part-time employees to provide core municipal services to its citizens.

Furthermore, Gahanna has 64-percent of its full-time employees in collective bargaining units, of which 44-percent are employed in public safety divisions and are part of public safety unions; and approximately 60-percent of all expenditures from the city's general fund are for personnel costs, including salaries and benefits, and any increases to these salaries and benefits dictated by the collective-bargaining process significantly impact the city's general fund and ability to provide services to its citizens.

"Public safety services employees in bargaining units have specific dictates by the Ohio Revised Code, which mandates they are unable to strike and therefore, must participate in a fact-finding and third-party binding arbitration process," the resolution adds. "This process involves a neutral party from outside of our city to facilitate hearings, whereby they are primarily required to review the city's financial status and comparable wage data and wage increases."

Gahanna was unable to obtain an agreement with one of its public safety services bargaining units in 2010 and took the matter through the fact finding and arbitration process, thereby costing the city $25,000-plus in legal fees, employee time and fact-finder/arbitrator fees.

The city is experiencing a declining trend in revenue and is attempting to control its health-insurance benefit costs with wellness and incentive programs similar to the private sector, raising city employees' share of premiums. In addition, they'll receive 2.5-percent, 2.5-percent and 3-percent wage increases for 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively.

"City council voted down the fact finder award and moved into binding conciliation, and has been waiting for the final award since June 2010 when the hearing occurred," the resolution adds. "The collective bargaining process can be arduous, expensive and the results determined by a third party who makes decisions that affect our citizens so dramatically after only spending 8 to 16 hours hearing presentations from all parties."

Council and the administration urge the General Assembly to re-examine Ohio's public employee collective bargaining law as quickly as possible.

The prevailing wage draft resolution notes that state law creates obligations on the city which are directly or indirectly related to employees wages, further exacerbating the city's ability to maintain fiscal responsibility.

Furthermore, Gahanna is forced by prevailing wage law to pay for construction labor at a rate that may be higher than what is available from other contractors and the existing prevailing wage law potentially increases the cost of construction on municipal projects which may also become a financial burden on taxpaying citizens.

"The prevailing wage law should be made conformant with recent Supreme Court rulings," the resolution adds. "Council and (the) administration urge the General Assembly to reexamine and evaluate the prevailing wage rate based on the actual average pay rates of works in the various trades in each region."