Bexley City Council approved an ordinance that council members say is intended to make the mayor's pay competitive with that of other mayors and city managers in central Ohio.

On Dec. 11, council unanimously approved Ordinance 42-18, which sets Mayor Ben Kessler's annual salary at $115,991, a 2.5 percent increase over his 2018 salary of $113,162.

The ordinance also sets Bexley police Chief Larry Rinehart's annual salary at $135,035 in 2019, a 4.48 percent increase from his 2018 salary of $129,242. The percentage increase for Rinehart's salary is in line with salary increases negotiated by the bargaining unit that represents Bexley police officers, said Councilman Steve Keyes, chairman of council's finance committee.

In a 5-1 vote, council members also approved Ordinance 43-18, which establishes the mayor's annual salary at the following rates: $120,000 in 2020; $127,500 in 2021; $135,000 in 2022 and $142,500 in 2023. The gradual salary increases are designed to bring the Bexley mayor's pay in line with neighboring communities, Keyes said.

"We want whoever is in the mayor's position to be well-compensated. But we don't want it to be such a high salary that the only reason the candidate is doing the job is because they want to be paid a lot of money," Keyes said. "There's obviously a big public aspect to what the mayor's doing."

Keyes said research that Kessler conducted at council's request indicates that mayors and city managers in nearby municipalities are compensated as follows: New Albany, $156,390; Powell, $150,925; Upper Arlington, $224,249; and Westerville, $166,500.

Council members said the 2020-through-2023 salary schedule for the Bexley mayor is not only reflective of similar positions in neighboring communities, but the job responsibilities, as well.

"I see the huge amount of time that goes into being mayor of this city," Councilwoman Mary Gottesman said. "Essentially, with a strong mayoral form of government, you're both ceremonial ... interfacing with the public, but you are also the city's manager."

Councilman Richard Sharp cast the sole dissenting vote against the ordinance setting the salary for 2020 through 2023. Councilman Tim Madison left the meeting before the vote due to illness.

Sharp said he would have preferred to to give the mayor a larger pay increase for the first year of the new salary schedule and then offer cost-of-living raises for each subsequent year.

"Similar to what we've done with other directors, we've gotten them up to the market (salary rate) in one or two years and then started applying an inflation rate upon that," Sharp said.

Ordinance 43-18 also allots an annual vehicle allowance for the mayor at $5,500 from 2020 through 2023, an amount unchanged from the 2018 and 2019 mayoral vehicle allowance.