Council members’ pay on some voters’ radar

A grassroots effort by some residents in Montgomery County’s second biggest city to cut council and mayoral salaries and limit their consecutive terms will be decided in November.

Questions about how much city councils and mayors are paid led to a Dayton Daily News examination of elected officals’ salaries in the region.

The analysis shows a wide range of differences — from base pay of $2,400 a year for the mayor in Moraine — one of the region’s smaller cities by population to as much as $44,824 a year for Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell — the largest city by population.

Leaders of Citizens for a Better Kettering, the political action committee that succeeded in placing charter amendments to cut pay and limit terms on the city’s Nov. 6 ballot, say the mayor and council there are overpaid and shouldn’t be permitted to vote themselves raises during their current terms.

The Daily News examination of compensation shows that while Kettering’s pay is higher than in other area cities with populations between 40,000 and 60,000, several smaller cities pay more on a per capita basis when the salaries are divided by the number of residents in those communities.

For example, Kettering Mayor Don Patterson is paid $22,980 a year. Kettering council is paid $15,570 a year. There are 56,163 residents in the city. That means that for each resident in the city, the mayor is paid about 41 cents per resident. The council is paid about 28 cents per resident.

In neighboring Centerville, Mayor Mark Kingseed is paid $14,691 a year. Council is paid $13,441 a year. There are 23,024 residents in Centerville. That means that for each resident in the city, the mayor is paid about 64 cents per resident. The council is paid about 58 cents per resident.

The call for cuts

According to the 2011 Ohio Municipal League Salary Survey, five other Ohio cities close to the size of Kettering — Euclid, Lakewood, Lorain, Mansfield and Newark — have full-time mayors who are paid much more than Kettering’s Patterson receives. Their part-time council members earn between $7,000 and $11,000, below the $15,570 in Kettering.

Kent Scarrett, director of communications, said the Municipal League doesn’t track trends in council pay. “Communities with home rule have considerable flexibility in how they set pay.”

Leaders of Citizens for a Better Ketteringbelieve the charter amendments in the city are unprecedented in Ohio. If approved, they will reduce the future pay of the mayor to $12,000 and council to $8,000, limit them to two consecutive terms beginning with the next election and set rules on how and when future increases can be given. According to its website, CBK wants to “bring council and mayoral pay back into alignment with neighboring cities, and encourage new leaders to run for election.”

Spokesperson and founder Ron Alban said, “It’s only valid to compare Kettering (56,163) with other area communities that have more than 35,000 residents.” Alban said Kettering’s council members are paid twice to three times as much as council members in Beavercreek, Huber Heights, Springfield and Middletown.

Kettering’s practice for decades has been to boost council pay by the same percentage when granting an increase to other non-union city workers. On Sept. 11, while approving a raise for others, council voted to freeze its pay until after the November election.

Council voted unanimously to submit both charter amendments to the city’s voters, but most members oppose them.

Patterson, who estimates that he spends 30 to 40 hours a week on city business, said “Citizens for a Better Kettering likes to compare us to Beavercreek — but our budget is much larger. We have $40 million in the bank and have balanced the budget for as long as I’ve been around. We have 21 parks, a great recreation center, police and fire service that’s excellent. Those things don’t just happen, or maintain themselves.”

Ashley Webb, a first-term at-large council member who opposes cutting the mayor’s pay and limiting consecutive terms in that office, but not for council, said Kettering’s annual budget is $65 million to Beavercreek’s $25.9 million. “We have twice as many employees,” Webb said. “That’s one indication of how much responsibility we have.”

If the pay limit passes, “It may preclude people with children and professionals who have jobs during the day from serving,” said vice mayor Amy Schrimpf. “The amount in the charter amendment is based on an arbitrary number, not on what we do, the size of our city’s budget, or our population.”

Several Kettering residents shared their thoughts about proposed pay limits on Facebook.

Lynda Waring said, “The type of government, the size of the city (population and economic impact), the roles and responsibilities of the elected officials should be the basis for an opinion on pay.”

Nancy Heggie Kramerwithak said, “I think our leaders should volunteer their time, especially in Kettering, the City of Volunteers.

Mayoral and council pay — which is decided in a variety of ways — hasn’t been a recent issue in other cities in the region.

Troy City Council president Martha Baker said it hasn’t been discussed there recently.

“We decided as a council several years ago that we would not take a pay raise, given the economy,” Baker said. “If we did vote for an increase, that would have to be done for the incoming council — not for those in the present term. Our salaries are low enough that none of us is doing this job for the money.”

Springboro Mayor John Agenbroad said pay for elected officials in his city “is menial. That’s not really an issue, though, because the salary is not why we do this. I think you’ll find that most people in local government want to serve their communities. We want to make a difference.”

In Beavercreek, the mayor (the council member who gets the most votes in the election) and council members each get $6,000 a year.

Huber Heights ($7,454 and $3,600, respectively) hasn’t given council a raise in 20 years.

In Centerville, council increases are tied to the consumer price index.

Oakwood stipulates that council “can increase salaries for future elected officials. They can’t do it for themselves,” city manager Norbert Klopsch said. “If salaries were to go up with the rest of non-union staff, you could get 3 to 3.5 percent increases, which add up.”

Beavercreek, Fairborn, Mason and Cincinnati all have term limits for local offices, which have been more widely embraced than pay limits have.

Setting the stage for a groundswell?

Alban also was the father of the statewide campaign launched in 2009 that will end Ohio’s estate tax beginning in 2013. First-term Kettering District 1 council member Rob Scott was among the five original leaders of that push — which has left many municipalities looking for ways to make up for a loss of income.

Ohio University associate professor JW Smith, who studies, teaches and has written on campaigns and campaign rhetoric, said that while the amendments in Kettering are locally focused, they may encourage similar efforts down the road.

“Term limits isn’t a new concept. What’s interesting is that they’re tying it to economics — the pay. If this passes in Kettering, especially with an overwhelming margin, you’ll see a groundswell,” Smith said.

“Given the fiscal conditions and low approval ratings of many political entities, if not specifically the City of Kettering, you’re going to see a lot more of this. It’s going to start at the local level and work its way up,” Smith said.

Scott, who founded the Dayton Tea Party and chairs the Montgomery County Republican Party, believes November’s vote “will be closely watched. These amendments may serve as a model for other communities.”

District 3 councilman Tony Klepacz, who ran unopposed last November, said Kettering “already has term limits. They come every four years. If the people don’t think I’m doing a good job, vote me out.”

Bruce Duke, Kettering’s longest-serving councilman (District 4) at 26 years, said the city previously has tried term limits for its mayor. “That was voted down in 1995 after about a decade because it didn’t work very well.”

Scarrett, of the Ohio Municipal League, said “a tightening scrutiny on salaries will create a disincentive to serve. It’s already true that people aren’t leaving the business environment to enter the public arena. Reduced compensation levels will make it even more difficult to attract a wide pool of candidates.”

Fairborn city manager Deborah McDonnell believes the term limits in her city do more harm than good.

“We’re not as actively involved in regional decisions because of a lack of continuity in leadership. With the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, for example, the players who have been there for a long time have a perspective about what’s truly good for the region and when it should be their turn to support a priority for their own community. It’s a global perspective. You lose that,” she said.

Springboro’s Agenbroad said term limits “might make sense at the national level. They argue about the color of toilet paper in Washington. That’s why nothing gets done. I’m not an advocate of them in local government. Sometimes fresh ideas are not good ideas, and sometimes people who have nothing to lose have personal agendas. Lame-duck people can do some serious damage.”

Area municipalities with part-time mayors and councils


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NOTES: Moraine: Moraine pays mayor and council members up to an additional $80 per month for regular council and committee meetings. The mayor and deputy mayor can receive up to $1,300 more per year for court sessions.

Oakwood is phasing in a raise for council members. Some still receive the previous amount of $480.



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