Northwood City Council, following months of debate, approved a lower salary for the city’s planning, zoning, and economic development coordinator, Kimberly Grames, at a meeting Sept. 10.
Grames became the city’s interim zoning inspector after former zoning inspector Heather Sayler accepted a job with the City of Bowling Green last year.
Grames had been earning an annual salary of $43,394, which was the same salary as Sayler. But some on council thought Grames’s salary should be less at $39,970 as a result of the poor economy.
“I still don’t fully understand this,” said Councilman Dave Gallaher at a meeting Sept. 3. Gallaher and Councilman Dean Edwards voted against reducing Grames’s salary.
Gallaher cited a recent article in The Press in which the city’s finance director, Toby Schroyer, said that the city’s finances were stable, despite a drop in revenue. Though Schroyer told council at a previous meeting that income tax revenue is down by $197,000 for the first six months of this year compared to last year, he later told The Press that the city does not have financial problems because the city budgeted more revenue than expenditures. He added that the city doesn’t spend all appropriations and that there was a $1.6 million carryover from last year.
“On the current financial status of the city, Toby’s on record saying we’re doing okay,” said Gallaher.
He said the city appeared to be singling out Grames, who earned $25,000 annually as Sayler’s part-time assistant. Not only will Grames be saving the city $25,000 since the assistant position will not be filled, but she will also save $10,000 more by not be taking the city’s health insurance.
“We set the pay for that position based on the responsibilities of the position,” said Gallaher. “We cut the part-time person out of that department, and we’re cutting the pay…of the person who’s now doing the full-time and the part-time.”
He said Councilman Mike Myers, who supports the police chief’s desire to continue operating the city’s speed van, had mentioned at the previous meeting about the importance of council listening to “the people we have running the city.”
Administrator Pat Bacon, he said, is on record in support of Grames’ $43,394 salary because her workload justifies the amount.
“I just don’t know what else council needs to let this person just do their job,” said Gallaher.
Councilwoman Connie Hughes asked Gallaher when Schroyer went on record saying that the city’s finances were stable.
“He stood here at our meeting in July and said we were $196,000 down in revenue. To me, that’s not saying we’re okay. Did anyone else hear that?” said Hughes.
“There was an article in The Press,” said Gallaher, in which Schroyer noted that the city was far from any budget crisis.
“I don’t care what The Press says,” said Hughes.
“I will just say we better get the finance director in here and ask him again,” said Gallaher. “That being said, if Toby comes in and says that we’re in good shape and we’ve been making adjustments all along and there’s no need for this, then what’s the other reason for cutting the pay?”
Hughes said the city wasn’t cutting Grames’ pay. “We’re not cutting her pay because she was a part-time person. She’s actually getting a 58 percent pay increase by becoming full-time. Secondly, this was not done the right way,” she said, because the city did not advertise for the position. “And we’ve been disagreeing about this for almost a year now,” said Hughes.
“So if I work more hours in the week, then technically I’m getting a raise because I’m working more hours?” asked Gallaher.
“What if we went back to a part-time position in there, which could very well be, with the state of the finances,” said Hughes.
“Connie, again, you’re going back to the state of the finances. I am very very confident that Toby will come and tell us we’re doing fine. If it’s because of the state of the finances, then we should have been doing things a long time ago differently. If our finances are so bad in this city that we have to cut one person’s pay to recoup, it’s not that person’s fault that we’re in this mess. If we’re in a bad way, it’s council’s fault and the mayor’s fault,” said Gallaher.
Hughes said the mayor has met with department heads and they have made cutbacks.
“We haven’t had to lay anyone off yet, thank goodness. And I hope we don’t have to,” said Hughes.
Mayor Mark Stoner said there have been “numerous cutbacks” with fewer police cars and roads improvements.
Hughes said if there are raises given out in April, Grames will get one, “if everyone else gets raises.”
Gallaher said the mayor and members of council should take pay cuts before employees are required to do so when the economy goes sour.
He said council should cut their pay to $100 per year, and $150 per year for the mayor.
“That would help the financial situation of the city. Before we cut anyone’s pay, that’s what we should vote on,” said Gallaher.
Stoner said if council voted to do that, it would not affect them but the next members of council.
“You don’t get a cut or increase during your current term,” said Stoner.
“I think if our financial situation in the city is so bad, I’m sure the rest of council and the mayor could return their pay and I don’t think there would be a problem with it,” said Gallaher.
Stoner and Hughes suggested the position be advertised.
Stoner asked Bacon to look at the minutes of a council meeting about a year ago to see if council directed her to advertise for the position.
“I guess we’ll do what council directed at that time and we will advertise for this position,” said Stoner. “That will end this discussion. We’ll advertise and let the best person win. And we’ll set a pay scale before we put the advertisement out.”
“I would certainly hope that council would not take our their frustration on an employee if they’re upset with a council member,” said Gallaher.
“We’re not taking out our frustrations,” said Hughes.
She suggested council vote on the matter at the Sept. 10 meeting. “Let the votes fall where they may and either be done with it, or we start over again.”