More than a dozen local city managers are paid above national median

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Payroll Project

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Moraine city manager tops in area for per-capita compensation.

Moraine City Manager David Hicks' salary in 2016 was the equivalent of $23.47 for every man, woman and child in the city, according to the I-Team Payroll Project analysis of local government payroll.

Hicks was one of more than a dozen city managers in this area whose 2016 gross compensation was higher than the $126,699 national median salary for city leaders published in a recent survey by the International City/County Management Association.

Tom Carroll, administrator of the village of Silverton in Hamilton County and president of the Ohio City Manager’s Association, said comparing pay among city managers is tricky.

“The services can vary so widely. Some cities run a port or marina in Cuyahoga and Lake counties, to a city like Hamilton that has its own electric utility,” he said.

“You can always look at one part of an equation, like how much someone makes or how much a utility charges, or how much a tax rate is. Those are important data points but they are often only a portion of the composite picture of the story.”

Of the 21 area cities included in the I-Team's analysis, 11 paid their city manager more than the median average for cities of roughly the same population.

Average city manager pay 
Median city manager pay in Ohio is lower than the national median, according to a survey of 1,034 governments.
PopulationNational city medianOhio median
100,000 to 249,999$220,000 Not provided
50,000 to 99,999$186,000 $140,780
25,000 to 49,999$154,500 $107,000
10,000 to 24,999$132,100 $119,751
5,000 to 9,999$108,000 $103,511
Source: International City/County Management Association

The I-Team also looked at four area counties and three townships, all of which paid their administrators less than the national median for like-sized municipalities or counties.

The region’s highest-paid city manager is Joshua Smith of Hamilton, who was paid $217,676 last year. That city has its own water and electric utilities with a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller credits Smith for helping create jobs in the city and rebuild its downtown core.

“So many things are going so well right now for the city,” he said. “And it’s a difficult time for a lot of cities, especially older cities with older infrastructure.”

When adjusted based on population, Hicks’ pay rises to the top. He was paid $148,079 last year to run Moraine, which has only 6,307 residents according to the 2010 census. The national median city manager pay for that size city is $108,000.

Highest area per-resident city manager pay  
These five cities have the highest per-resident pay for their city managers, and all pay their leader more than the national average for a city their size, according to a recent national survey.
CityNameGross paypopulationCost per-resident
MoraineDavid Hicks$148,079.006,307$23.47
OakwoodNorbert Klopsch$160,342.009,202$17.42
UnionJohn Applegate$110,601.006,419$17.23
BellbrookMark Schlacheck$108,819.006,943$15.67
EnglewoodEric Smith$158,216.0013,465$11.75
Source: I-Team Payroll Project, 2010 U.S. Census data

In an interview last week, Hicks said while only 6,000 people sleep in Moraine, they are a “host employer community” to tens of thousands more people.

“We have other obligations besides the 6,000 people that live there,” he said.

This includes maintaining infrastructure for heavy industry, several closed landfills, industrial reuse and other issues that require working with federal, state and business interests.

“If we were 6,000 people out in the country somewhere, we wouldn’t have any of those conversations,” he said.

RELATED: Oakwood’s highest-paid employees: I-Team Payroll Project

The second-highest per capita salary in the area belonged to Oakwood City Manager Norbert Klopsch, whose $160,342 pay in a city of 9,202 comes out to $17.42 per person.

Oakwood Mayor William Duncan said Klopsch is one of the area’s longer-serving city managers and recently assumed all the duties of the public works director when they eliminated that position.

“If you take into effect he’s doing two jobs and managing the city’s finances very successfully, I think he’s worth the comp,” said Duncan.

RELATED: Moraine’s highest paid employees: I-Team Payroll Project

The ICMA survey was based on answers from 1,034 governments across the country. The median for respondents from Ohio was far below the national average for every size city government.

The I-Team’s analysis only looked at gross compensation, not other contractual perks and benefits, such as a car or cell phone or the ability to cash out unused sick and vacation leave.

An I-Team investigation this year found the ability to cash out unused sick and vacation leave is a rare perk in the private sector, though local governments are on the hook for tens of millions of dollars worth of these payments.

REPORT: Taxpayers on hook for $444M in unused state worker leave

The ICMA survey found more than three-quarters of governmental leaders received a car or car allowance and 10 percent received a health club membership. Nearly 90 percent received some sort of leave payout at separation.

Carroll said most city managers in Ohio make all of the day-to-day executive decisions in local government with direction from their elected officials.

His organization has not looked into why some government leaders are paid more than others, but he ventured that competition plays a role.

“We operate in a competitive labor market, so cities, townships and counties compete to try to attract the best mangers to their communities that they can afford,” he said.

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