A five-person panel will study and recommend compensation levels for Columbus mayor, city council members, the city attorney and city auditor.

A five-person panel will study and recommend compensation levels for Columbus mayor, city council members, the city attorney and city auditor.

Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman and City Council President Andy Ginther last week announced the formation of the Citizens' Commission on Elected Official Compensation.

City leaders say the commission adds a layer of citizen engagement and accountability to the process of setting future pay rates for elected officials in Columbus.

The formation of the commission was mandated by recent changes to the Columbus City Charter strongly supported by Columbus voters during the November general election.

The commission will meet in the next 90 days and produce recommendations, council spokesman John Ivanic said.

"It takes the decision out of the hands of politicians and puts it in the hands of residents who have the opportunity to review peer cities and best practices," Ivanic said.

Previously, council was responsible for setting pay levels for those positions.

"There is, quite frankly, nothing that guides council outside of common sense," Ivanic said.

"A lot of communities have done this as best practices around the state, around the country, to make it a more fact-based approach to officials' compensation."

Council can accept or reject the recommendations of the commission. However, council cannot go higher than the commission's recommendation, which has a ceiling of 3 percent, but can be lower, Ivanic said.

The base salary for the mayor is $172,981; council president, $63,259; council members, $53,585; city attorney, $168,126; and city auditor, $164,126.

Pay has been set through 2017 for all offices except the mayor, which is set through 2019.

So, no person who is serving can have his or her pay increased or decreased during his or her term of office, City Attorney Richard C. Pfeiffer Jr. said.

Coleman has forgone a pay raise for four years.

Zach Klein, who was appointed to council in 2011, also has declined raises and currently makes $42,014 a year.

The commission will be led by Chet Christie, former human resources director in Coleman's administration.

Christie said the commission will seek guidance from the city's compensation team and other data, such as salary surveys conducted on an annual basis by cities across the county.

"I think the biggest challenge is that we make sure we compare an apple to an apple," Christie said.

"And, in terms of governance, when we compare it to the city of Columbus, it's consistent."

Other members of the citizens commission include Dawn Tyler Lee, senior vice president of community impact for United Way of Central Ohio, and Columbus attorney Marchelle E. Moore, vice president of legal and government affairs and general counsel for the Central Ohio Transit Authority.

Both Lee and Moore served on the Columbus Charter Review Commission.

Christie, Lee and Moore will be joined by William Murdock, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, and Kristen Easterday, Columbus Chamber of Commerce's director of local government relations.