Canal Winchester's mayor will receive a bigger paycheck in each of the next two years, increasing the position's salary to more than $100,000, following a split vote by City Council.
A 4-3 vote July 1 will bump the salary by 2.5% in both 2020 and 2021 for the city's top administrator, a position currently held by Mayor Mike Ebert, who intends to run for a fourth four-year term in November.
The mayor's salary will increase to $98,382 in 2020 and $100,842 in 2021. According to Amanda Jackson, the city's finance director, total benefits cannot be determined because health-care premiums haven't been set for 2020; however, for 2019, health benefits were approximately $27,000, with an additional $8,000 of employer-required expenses, for a total of $35,000 in benefits, she said.
Every two years, council must vote on legislation by July 1, setting the salaries and benefits for the mayor and the city's seven elected council members. Changes then take effect the following year after a council election is held.
"Take the name and face out of this and look at the position," said council Vice President Mike Walker, who supported the increase. "It's a full-time position, and it's in line with what the city of Canal Winchester employees have been given, a 2.5% increase. With the city workers, it's a cost-of-living increase, with merit, combined."
Joining Walker in voting for the increase were council members Mike Coolman, Bob Clark and Will Bennett, who proposed the increase. Council President Bruce Jarvis and council members Patrick Lynch and Jill Amos voted against the measure.
Ebert received a bigger paycheck for 2018 and 2019 after council approved a pay increase of 6.5% to $95,983 annually. The mayor's benefits package also includes $500 per month in compensation for the use of his personal vehicle in conducting city business.
Ebert's annual salary was set at $90,125 through the end of 2017. It was $87,500 in 2014 and 2015.
Ahead of the vote, council members debated the increase.
Jarvis, who intends to challenge Ebert in November, said the salaries of both the mayor and council are "right where they need to be" after reviewing data, including a 2018 Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission study comparing salary information from numerous central Ohio municipalities.
City Finance Director Amanda Jackson provided the MORPC data to council.
Lynch said he went a step further and compared Ohio mayors' salaries to population size. He noted Canal Winchester's more than 8,000 residents would equate to a per-resident rate of $13.50, compared to Findlay ($1.82) and Cuyahoga Falls ($2.62).
He also pointed to information from ZipRecruiter, which he said puts the average annual salary for an Ohio mayor at $47,566. However, some mayors are paid for part-time service.
"I'm not for the mayor not making a good salary," Lynch said. "I think he should. But I think where it's at right now is very generous. It's a good salary. I try to be fiscally responsible to the community, and I don't think it merits an increase."
Walker said the city is "getting a bargain," considering the mayor does not have any assistants. He ran through a list of cities that have city managers, assistant city managers and administrative assistants costing well above what Canal Winchester's mayor makes to do the same jobs.
He also asked everyone to think about their annual paycheck and compare it to the increase for the mayor.
"How many of us get raises ... or are in line with that same type of raise every year?" Walker asked.
"It's basically in line with the cost of living."
Clark agreed saying, "I would not classify this as a raise; it's a cost-of-living adjustment. It basically keeps the buying power of that position the same for the next (two) years if you are at the inflation rate, which we are or a little less."
Social Security recipients received a 2.8% cost-of-living increase in January.
Council members voted unanimously to keep their salaries at the current rate, $6,592 annually. The council president is paid $7,251 and the council vice president $6,921. They last received a raise of 3% in 2016.
The mayor and council members also may choose to opt out of the city's medical-, dental-, vision- and life-insurance plans for an incentive. All city employees have this option.