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Palestine wage increase approved

December 10, 2013
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

EAST PALESTINE - Village employees will earn more money next year now that a 2.5 percent increase has passed council.

Council on Monday approved the wage increase for full-time non-union employees and members of the Teamsters and Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) unions.

Teamsters Local 377 covers street, park and waste department employees plus clerical employees in the water department, while the FOP covers full-time dispatchers and patrolmen.

The unions negotiated with Village Manager Pete Monteleone, Finance Director Traci Thompson and council members Jim Tyger, Ellen Beagle and Alan Cohen for the annual wage reopeners on Nov. 19.

The unions' five-year contract expires in 2015 and members were not awarded a wage increase for this year. In fact, all village employees were on a wage freeze this year.

According to information provided by Monteleone, the highest wage increase given to all employees over the last nine years was 4 percent in 2004. Since then employees received 2.5 to 3 percent increases, with no increases given in 2006, 2010 and last year.

He said the 2014 wage increases are possible due to an increase in overall revenue and trimming the estimated 2013 budget by cutting roughly $242,000 from the general fund.

The fund is where the administration, finance, police and fire departments get their revenue and the budget was trimmed in part by not fulfilling funding increase requests from the fire department and not hiring an additional full-time police officer.

Monteleone said Monday the village has been very fiscally conservative over this year and eliminated unnecessary expenses, like planned loans for projects that later received federal critical infrastructure grant funds.

"We've worked really hard to be conservative with our spending," he said.

An intensive study of the police department's scheduling also helped cut back expenses by reworking schedules to get the maximum police patrol for less money, he added.

The department implemented the new partial "power shift" for part-time officers this summer. The officers were put on shifts based on need and since then OVI and drug-related arrests have increased, he said.

He went on to say that other things, such as carryover from last year's budget and the modification of concession stand operations is also to credit for the additional money available for wages.

The village only recently learned the park was losing roughly $9,000 a year over the last five years through the concession stand and council is moving forward with leasing the operations out to interested professionals to shore up those losses.

The park was spending more money operating the stand than it was bringing in revenue and leasing it out will eliminate that expense, Monteleone has said.

A draft lease agreement was given to council members this week and a vote will be forthcoming.

According to the agreement anyone leasing the concession stand must have a $1 million commercial liability insurance policy, be licensed through the Columbiana County Health Department, and provide a base menu including all food and respective pricing to the village for their review 30 days before opening.

Also, the village is not responsible for concession stand employees.

Other terms of the contract include a portion of the gross profits to be paid to the village, and utilities shall be paid on a monthly basis. Also, a $200 deposit will be given back to the leasing party at the end of the contract if the concession stand is left in clean condition.

Anyone leasing the stand is allowed to use the existing equipment, but must be responsible for its maintenance.



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