Upper Arlington council OKs higher pay grades for department heads

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Upper Arlington's city manager now will have the authority to increase the maximum annual pay for certain city department heads by nearly $30,000.

Upper Arlington City Council on Aug. 31 voted 5-2 to add a new pay grade for eight city department heads that will ensure they are paid in the range of $112,000 to $165,000.

The move represents an increase from the previous pay grade for those employees, which ranged from $96,510 to $135,114.

The positions that will fall into the new pay grade will be the city's police and fire chiefs, the assistant city manager, the public-service director/city engineer, the parks and recreation director, the finance director, the community-development director and the information-technology director.

Council President Kip Greenhill said the move reflects the high confidence council members have in City Manager Steve Schoeny, as well as the need to competitively compensate top employees and pay them for new duties they have assumed in recent months.

"People are taking on additional responsibilities," Greenhill said. "This allows the city manager the authority to compensate people for the extra work they're taking on."

The amendment to the pay scale for the eight staff members includes provisions that require the city manager to provide two weeks' notice to council if any salary increases the city manager is set to extend would exceed 3% in a 12-month period.

Additionally, council must be notified if any other city staff members outside of the eight identified by the Aug. 31 measure have their salaries increased into the range of $112,000 to $165,000.

"In passing these motions, this is going to help us keep, retain and attract great staff," said council Vice President Brendan King.

Council's two dissenting votes came from Jim Lynch and Michaela Burriss.

"I'm just not comfortable delegating this much authority from council to city leadership and the city manager," Lynch said.

Burriss said her opposition wasn't the result of a lack of confidence in Schoeny, but she noted the measure gives the authority to future city managers who might not have the full confidence of council members.

"I truthfully believe that our budget process is the best opportunity for us to weight these types of matters," Burriss said. "Secondly, it's the fear of the unintended consequences for employees who would not be affected and how they may perceive having a different standard of evaluation."

Greenhill countered by saying council shouldn't "get involved in individuals' pay" because council members are not always privy to much of the work city staff members perform on a daily basis, including new duties they might be asked to take on.

"Our city manager, I think, is in the best position to make those judgments," he said.

Schoeny said he would strive to show that he can prudently handle top employees' compensation matters in the best interests of the city.

He said he would treat the dissenting votes by Lynch and Burriss "not as a threat" or vote of no confidence but rather as "honest disagreement."

"My job now is to prove that you're wrong in a positive way and not in a malicious way," Schoeny said.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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