Members of Warren City Council this week will begin considering repealing a 1999 law that says when the council members can give themselves a pay raise.
The ordinance on the books now prohibits raises for elected officials in the city unless the increase is approved before a primary election. Since the primary election this year has passed and council members serve two-year terms, that means if council gave itself a pay raise now, it would not be effective until 2016.
Councilman Vince Flask, leading the repeal effort, called the 1999 ordinance ''bad'' and ''reactionary'' and said the law was passed by a council that didn't trust future members of council.
The law was the result of a controversy in 1995, when former Mayor Hank Angelo, before he took office, set into motion a plan to get pay raises for himself and other elected officials.
Councilman Al Novak co-sponsored the legislation then so that ''whoever was running for office would be aware of what those wages would be,'' he said.
Now, Flask wants the ordinance repealed. It must be repealed so he can follow through on part two of his plan: getting council's wages increased to be in line with new standards for retirement benefits in Ohio.
Council members earn $925 a month (that's $11,109 a year) - way more than enough to earn retirement credit with the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, which only requires elected officials to earn $600 a month. Where council comes up short is a change in earning requirements for retirement health care benefits.
To receive full health care eligibility through OPERS, an elected official must earn at least $1,000 a month.
Flask prefers to focus on the repeal ordinance now, saying if it doesn't pass then there's no need to talk about giving council raises.
But raising council's wages needs to be part of the discussion.
The proposal would raise council wages to $1,083 a month or $13,000 a year. Pay for president of council, which is $11,779 now, would be increased to $13,669, which is $1,139 a month.
That's a 17 percent increase for council and a 16 percent increase for council president. The raise would be effective next year.
One effect would be a pension payment increase, not in percent - the city pays 14 percent of the 24 percent contribution - but in actual dollars. If wages increase, so does the amount paid toward pension.
Another effect: City firefighters have a ''me too'' clause in their contract that says they will get the same percent increase given to elected officials. There are 67 firefighters, not including the fire chief, according to the city's human resources department.
And potentially, there could be an effect when the city's other bargaining units begin to negotiate new contracts and want the some sort of increase. Also, non-union employees typically receive the same increases.
City workers probably deserve an increase, but with an already tight budget, especially in the fire department, which is being helped by a federal grant, city officials should be aware of the dominoes that would fall by giving council a raise.
Flask said if there is an overwhelming feeling against the proposals and there's going to be a big effect on the city's budget, he would let them go.
''I'm not trying to do anything that will be a major drain on the city,'' he said.
Flask also is considering asking for health benefits to be restored to members of council.
Rough cost numbers from the Auditor's Office that include hospitalization, dental, vision and life coverage are $489 a month for a single plan and $1,316 for a family plan. Not all members may opt for insurance coverage, but for those who do, depending on the plan picked, that's about what the city would pay per member.
Council eliminated benefits for itself in 2003.