ELO council approves raises

EAST LIVERPOOL – With action taken Monday night by City Council, all city employees will receive salary increases in 2014 and a one-time bonus this year.

The finance committee had recommended the additional compensation for police patrolmen, captains and dispatchers, street and utility workers and non-union employees following a meeting last week.

At last night’s meeting, an ordinance granting the same increases to fire fighters was also brought to the council table, with Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell reporting that union President Bob Smith had since returned from vacation and finalized negotiations for the fire department.

With Councilman Ryan Stovall abstaining because his brother is a police dispatcher, wage ordinances were passed that provide a one-time wage bonus of $1,500 for employees hired prior to Jan. 1 of this year, payable in May for full-time employees with more than 12 months of continuous service.

Those full-time employees with between six and 12 months service will receive a $750 bonus; and those with less than six months, $375.

Part-time employees who average 20 hours per week or more will receive a $500 bonus, and part-time employees who average less than 20 hours per week, $250.

Employees hired after Jan. 1 but prior to March 1 of this year will be given two options from which to choose: They can receive a one-time wage bonus of $375 during the month of May or they can receive a one-time bonus payable after their one-year anniversary date of $500.

Additionally, bargaining unit employees will receive a 45-cent-per-hour increase starting Jan. 1, 2014.

For patrolmen and captains, a 45-cent shift differential was also implemented, bringing them into line with other departments that already have second- and third-shift differentials.

For non-union employees, car allowance for the housing inspector will change from a flat $100 per month fee to 72-cents per hour worked.

As Estell had explained to the finance committee previously, he told council, “Settling the contracts was a cheaper option than fighting over a long time.”

Estell said previously the increases will cost the general fund $143,854 over the two-year period. Additionally, the raises will cost other departments the following: Water department, $49,000; wastewater, $24,600; and $26,800, refuse/recycling.

Councilman Tom Cunningham asked whether the increase in compensation will result in employee layoffs, with Estell saying that depends on how business fares in the city which “makes it too difficult to say” at this point.

He pointed out the city has a number of older employees who can retire “whenever they want,” including three in the fire department and two in the police department.

Coupled with lower salary rates established for new hires, the city will see significant savings, according to Estell.

Auditor Kim Woomer seemed less optimistic about the salary hikes, saying that, while the non-union employees have not had a raise in seven years and “deserve it,” as fiscal officer, she believes the city cannot afford the across-the-board increases.

During the finance meeting last week, Woomer indicated funding for the raises was included in the 2013 budget also up for consideration Monday night.

After last night’s meeting, however, she said the city is currently looking at an $11,000 cash balance but that the one-time bonuses this year as well as electricity costs at the former East Junior High the city now owns will eliminate that balance and actually result in a deficit.

Woomer said she hopes the shortfall will be made up throughout the year as additional tax revenue comes in.