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Niles approves increases for elected offices

Council president broke tie vote

NILES — In a special meeting Tuesday, just a week before the Nov. 5 general election, council narrowly passed proposed pay raises for the city’s administration and council members.

The raises had to be approved before the election because Ohio Revised Code prohibits in-term changes to pay, said Law Director Phil Zuzulo at council’s Oct. 16 meeting.

Council split 3-3 on the vote, with P. J. Kearney, Barry Profato and Linda Marchese voting against the raises. Ryan McNaughton, who voted no in the first two readings, was absent from the meeting.

Council President Robert Marino broke the tie and pushed the raises through, as he did in the second reading, for which Kearney was absent. Marino said he voted yes because he supports the move.

The raises, which will be locked in for the duration of each position’s term, see the mayor’s pay getting bumped from $69,000 to $70,085 starting Jan. 1, 2020.

The auditor’s salary will go from $61,000 to $70,000 over the course of four years, and the treasurer’s salary will double from $7,500 to $15,000 over the course of two years. Council president and members also will get an increase, with salaries going from $7,300 to $8,431 for the president and from $7,000 to $8,085 for ward and council-at-Large members.

Initial proposed rates, amended at the last regular city council meeting, were higher, and the auditor and treasurer raises were not staggered. The change also eliminated a raise for the law director, but made the position full time so it is eligible for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The changes came after “some concern” over the amounts of the raises, Councilwoman Sheri Smith, who is chair of the finance committee, said after that meeting. She said the original raises were somewhere in the area of 15 percent for some positions.

Auditor Giovanne Merlo at the time estimated the amendments brought a future savings of about $30,000.

Barry Profato, who consistently voted against the raises, said he wanted to be “steadfast” with his vote. With the city eight months out of state-mandated fiscal emergency, Profato said the city could easily sink back into emergency. He cited the potential of the GM effect to deplete revenue.

“Right now, I’ve talked to a lot of people, and they’re not happy with (the raises),” Profato said. “…my job is to represent the taxpayers.”

Profato previously expressed concern with the proximity to the election date where almost all parties involved are running unopposed. Only a write-in candidate, George Kuriatnyk, is challenging for a council-at-Large position.

Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz previously said the raises have been discussed for “quite some time” and council gathered information on compensation in similar municipalities — making the timing of the proposed raises a little late.

At the time, Mientkiewicz said said although emergency is right behind it, the city is in a “good position” financially.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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