Johnstown village leaders plan to take a closer look at employees' wages and benefits and try to determine whether current rates and benefits are sustainable for the years to come.

Johnstown village leaders plan to take a closer look at employees' wages and benefits and try to determine whether current rates and benefits are sustainable for the years to come.

The subject was brought up during Johnstown Village Council's Feb. 3 meeting.

Village staff members will conduct the review and forward their findings to council's finance committee prior to sending them to the entire council by the end of March, according to Village Manager Jim Lenner.

The committee will compare Johnstown's current wages and benefits to those in nearby communities that are similar in size, population and demographics, such as Canal Winchester, Hebron, Obetz and Granville, Lenner said.

"While Johnstown's wages might not be the most competitive around, the village does currently offer employees a substantial benefits package," Lenner said. "Our benefits package has helped us attract quality employees, and we hope to continue that tradition."

The village's benefits package includes medical, dental, vision and life insurance.

Lenner said the finance committee would examine whether the village could afford to continue to offer such a hefty benefits package.

"While it's great that we are able to offer our employees such a nice benefits package, it might not be sustainable for us down the road," he said.

The village currently has 23 full-time, four part-time and seven auxiliary employees, Lenner said.

The average hourly wage is $15.25 to $19.83, according to the amended wage plan presented during the Feb. 3 council meeting.

In the 2014 budget, cuts were made to employees' salaries. The village cut $48,000 in officer salaries and $42,000 in dispatcher salaries, as ThisWeek reported in April 2014.

Lenner said he realizes some employees in smaller towns view their job as a type of stepping stone to a bigger town that could pay more, but the opposite is true, too.

"We have police officers who have been here over 20 years," he said. "We also have folks that leave after two years. There's nothing we can do about them leaving except wish them the best."

Members of the finance committee also will examine how raises are given to village employees. They will determine whether raises should be given based on merit, years of service, cost of living increase or a combination.

Lenner said Johnstown isn't able to compete with the wages that cities like Dublin could afford to pay employees.

The upcoming wage evaluation is included in the overall 2015 budget process, whereby village leaders also will study other aspects, such as medical premiums and zoning-permit costs, Lenner said.

A complete review of wages and job descriptions hasn't been performed in a few years, he said.

"I want to get us on a regular schedule to ensure we are up to date on our wages," he said.

The issue of wages was a big one last fall, when voters rejected a proposed charter amendment that would have allowed village employees to collectively bargain.

Voters on Nov. 4 decisively rejected a proposed charter amendment that would have mandated that village employees be allowed to collectively bargain.

The issue was brought to the table in July, when a petition forced council to put a charter amendment on the ballot that would allow police officers to negotiate via collective bargaining.

The petition contained 201 certified signatures; only 71 were required.

Council and other village leaders made it clear they were blindsided by the petition and were concerned for the effects the amendment could have on the village's coffers.

Mayor Sean Staneart and Lenner both openly opposed the amendment, and few spoke in favor of it.

ThisWeek reporter Andrew King contributed to this story.