Raise Council Pay by 560%!

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This Monday Council will vote themselves a pay raise.  Though I believe these council members are grossly overpaid for the quality of work they perform, I argue that they are not raising it enough to pay for the quality we need. 

In what range should we set pay for a city council member?  First, I will address my friend and city podcaster, Matt Truman’s contention that dedicated public servants would do the job for nothing.  Then I will lay out my thoughts on an appropriate compensation.  I will end by validating my contention that these council members are not earning their pay and proposing we go to a strong mayor form of government so we can get rid of this group and bring in people that are qualified. 

So there are people that suggest that a dedicated public servant would do the job for nothing.  As proof of that you might look at Matt Truman and me.  We are not council members but both of us spend a decent amount of time on council/city business and the quality of our understanding and advice clearly surpasses that of the actual members of council.  If you look at the time that we spend time looking over agenda items before council meets, watching/listening to the live broadcast or streaming video and then bringing you updates and analysis you could make the case that there are capable people in this city that would be willing to do the job because of their sense of civic duty. 

However, the reality is that even though over the last couple months I have spent an equal amount of time monitoring council, studying issues and analyzing decisions as I would have spent as a member of council, the hours do not count the same.  As a citizen, I can take my daughter to Cub Scouts on Monday night and then listen to the video of the council meetings on my drive to a from work over the next couple of days.  As a member of council, you make a four-year commitment not only to make those Monday and Tuesday evening meetings but also to do the read ahead preparation before those meetings.  This is not a small commitment when you have five children and your wife suffers two separate bouts of cancer.  

As a citizen, I choose not to follow council for almost all of 2017.  I can write an article like this at two o’clock in the morning or choose to not write at all.  A dedicated member of council needs to be engaged the entire four years and usually while people are active. 

Additionally, even if the individual is willing and capable of doing the job for next to nothing, that doesn’t mean everyone whose time is affective is willing to give up that time for nothing.  Both the individual and the spouse need to be on board.  Even then, what the parents spend their time on also affects the time available for kids. 
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Because of time considerations, I am skipping writing the part where I discuss the compromises and intense discussions my wife and I have about how to prioritize our efforts at civic duty.  But I will say that she would have more resources and time for her efforts to provide food for the indigenous people in the mountain areas of the Philippine if I wasn’t giving away my time providing advice for improving city government.    

Bottom line, some of us can and will work for good government because of civic duty.  But if you want to attract the best talent for the position.  It makes sense to pay a salary capable of attracting the people with those kinds of talents. 

That brings us to how much is a fair compensation for those with the abilities necessary to provide the required oversite and advice we need from a council.  In calculating the hourly wage, I make two assertions.  First, since the council oversees the performance of the City manager, the pay band the council has set for attracting a qualified city manager provides a good start for calculating the pay band residents should be paying council.  Next, there are jobs throughout this community that require similar skills and duties of a city manager.  Hiring people with experience in those positions provides a good opportunity to find people capable of evaluating the performance of the city manager and providing intelligent guidance.

The City Manager pay band runs from $90,000 to $145,000 a year.  This works out to about $43.00 an hour to about $70.00.  An article came out this week that tells us the Walmart Store Managers average $127,000 a year.  A pharmacist in Meijer also makes about $125,000 a year.   Looking to supervisors at Wright Patterson AFB Colonels and GS-14s also make around $125,000 a year.  These are all positions where the individuals that fill them should possess skills and experiences that allow them to understand and evaluate the work done by the City Manager.  $125,000 a year works out to about $60.00 an hour. 

How many hours does a member of council need to work?  In my calculations I use four meetings a month for four hours a meeting gives 16 hours.  Plus at least 2 hours of preparation for each meeting, so this adds an additional 8.  Lastly a member of council should be available to the public at least 4 hours a month.  In total this comes to 28 hours a month.  How much should we be offering to pay council if we wanted to attract people with the ability to evaluate the performance of a city manager?  28 times $60 equals $1680 a month.  Considering council makes $300 a month this would be a 560% increase. 

 Monday council will vote to change their salaries from $300 a month to $675 a month.   This is not enough to fairly compensate the kind of people with the proven abilities to provide the necessary oversite of the city’s business. 

I know at the beginning of this article I said I would show that this council is not even earning the $300 a month we pay them now.  They definitely will not be earning the $675 they will be earning later.  However, I chose to plant mums this afternoon and cooked breakfast for the kids.  So instead I will leave you with the Cliff notes.

Go back and review the discussion of the work session after the City Manager met initially with school representatives about the Lexington Place TIF district.  You will see he initially gave them good advice.  After council reiterated their desire to go with the blackmail strategy, he fell in line.  The city manager consistently performs as you would expect an $90,000 employee to perform instead of at the $145,000 level he is paid.  There are plenty of examples like this discussion that make it difficult to determine if this is because he is not capable of any better performance or if he his hindered because of the quality of the council. 

If I had the time to do the research, I would confidently write another “Integrity in Huber Heights, Death by a Thousand Cuts” article based on the City Manager’s presentation he gave on the projected build out of the Lexington Place development.  While listening to this presentation, my initial thought was that he was conceding that council dithering wasted the opportunity to collect an additional $390,000 from the TIF.  In that brief, he told us that there were 133 lots approved for development but he was only going to the calculations based on 120 lots because, typically, developers aren’t going to fully develop their properties.  This logic does not make sense to me.  But before definitively writing that this is another case of deceptive spin, I would have to look at other Ryan developments, like Artisan walk and check to see if they have abandoned the idea of selling 10% of the lots there.  On the other hand, logically, it seems more likely that they think there are at least 13 houses in the new Lexington Place development will be on the tax roles before the TIF is created so instead of saying council dithered away $390,000 he made up this idea that developers tend to create more lots than they intend to sell. 

If investigation of actual projects in Huber shows Ryan does better than 90%, and it looks like council is just trying to hide that they dithered away $390,000, this would add credence that we could do much better if we had better members of council.  What makes this even worse is that at the time these statements were made, it may still have been possible to not lose that $390,000.  From a conversation I had with a representative at the auditor’s office, it appears that the actual dates that assessments go into effect are June 1st and Jan 1st.  incredible as it may be, council still has time to created the TIF before the end of the month and possibly not lose most of that $390,000.  To date there has been no public discussion showing any member of council knows the actual method the auditor uses to establish the baseline for TIF calculations or understands the criticallity of when the TIF is created.  If council does not know………. 

 If I had time to write the full version of this article there are a number of things I would write about the city’s Ward 1 representative that shows $300 a month is too much for the quality of work we get.  Continuing the Cliff Notes version:

Mr. Shaw has been the catalyst for getting council off track on the Lexington Place TIF and largely responsible for dithering away the money the city will ultimately lose. 

Look at the Ward 1 page and you might get the impression that he helps gets underutilized properties utilized.   In fact, if you followed his updates, you might get the impression that he hand dug IHop’s sewer lines himself.  However, there is a $350,000 property, owned by the city that has been vacant for over a year.  I have not heard him speak about utilizing this property.  He has not proposed talking to the YMCA to see if they would be willing to set up an auxiliary campus even though this neighborhood greatly needs the services the Y could provide.