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Timing very bad for Niles pay raises

It’s true few residents ever would admit to willingly supporting pay raises for their elected officials. Even given that, the timing of raises approved last week for Niles elected officials truly couldn’t have been any worse.

Some of the raises aren’t huge by most standards — but some are. And they all come at a time when many of the local taxpayers are seeing their own paychecks reduced — some to zero.

The city is just eight months removed from state-imposed fiscal emergency.

Yet it has approved raises that now will bump the mayor’s salary from $69,000 to $70,085 starting Jan. 1, 2020; the council president’s salary will increase from $7,300 to $8,431 per year; and council members’ pay will increase from $7,000 to $8,085. The city auditor’s salary will jump 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. The change also makes the law director position full time and, therefore, now eligible for health insurance.

Each of these increases will be locked in for the duration of each position’s term.

The tied vote of 3-3 on this issue was broken last week by council President Robert Marino Jr. Marino, a longtime president who had given up his post, was re-appointed by council after elected president Barry Steffey recently stepped down.

Council members Barry Profato, P.J. Kearney and Linda Marchese voted against the raises. Councilman Ryan McNaughton, who also had voted no in the first two readings, was absent from the meeting in which the issue passed.

Council pushed the raises through before Tuesday’s election day because under Ohio Revised Code, in-term changes to pay are prohibited.

That led Profato rightfully to express concern with the proximity to Election Day, especially considering that this year, nearly every officeholder seeking re-election is running unopposed (only a write-in candidate, George Kuriatnyk, is challenging for a council-at-Large position). The limited number of challengers all but guarantees the sitting officeholders a pay increase.

At a time when one of the area’s largest employers, General Motors, announced its permanent closure, leaving jobless many workers who are Niles constituents, paying the salaries of these elected officials, frankly, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

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