All city of Akron employees — except for the mayor — are getting a pay increase and will see big adjustments to their health care benefits this year.
City Council approved legislation Thursday ratifying new three-year agreements with the city’s four unions and extending the raises and health care changes to nonunion workers, as well.
Council members and members of new Mayor Dan Horrigan’s cabinet, many of whom have been on the job for less than a month, are among those getting a pay increase.
That didn’t sit well with some council members who objected to their own raises and those for the new cabinet.
A proposal by Councilman Bruce Kilby to strip council positions and 18 cabinet members from the legislation failed.
Councilwoman Linda Omobien called it “insane” and “unfair” to award raises to administrators — 17 of the 18 were making more than $106,000 before the bump — when they’ve been on the job for only a few weeks.
“These are not peanuts, folks,” she said. “These are excellent salaries.”
There also was a question of whether the council could grant itself an in-term pay raise. The Ohio Ethics Commission has said that in-term pay raises are generally prohibited.
But city Law Director Eve Belfance said after the meeting that the city’s charter doesn’t prohibit council members from giving themselves pay raises during their term and a 1998 appellate court ruling allows it.
City workers will receive a 3 percent raise retroactive to Jan. 3 and 2.5 percent raises in each of the next two years.
Council pay now rises to $34,694 this year. The council president will make $44,616.
City workers also will pay more toward their health insurance and spouses of employees, in most cases, will be required to get their insurance through their own employers if it’s offered.
Russ Brode, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 330, said the unions worked hard on the contract and even spent $48,000 of their own money on a consultant to work on the health care package.
He estimated that the city will save $13.8 million over the contract because of the changes in health benefits. That will more than offset the raises, Brode said.
City officials have estimated that the pay increases would cost about $3.2 million a year.
The unions, which represent about 1,400 workers, were irritated that the council didn’t approve the legislation Monday when it was originally presented.
They were pleased, though, that it was approved Thursday and that their raises won’t be delayed any further.
In addition to the firefighters union, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, Civil Service Personnel Association Inc. and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1360 worked on the deal.
The council spent nearly a half-hour in executive session before discussing and voting on the legislation.
Belfance declined to say what advice she gave the council related to the issue of in-term pay increases.
Councilman Jeff Fusco said it’s been a longstanding tradition to tie council and administrative raises to the union increases.
“We’re all in this together,” he said.
In the end, Kilby, Omobien and Councilman Zack Milkovich voted against the pay legislation because it still included the council and the cabinet members.
Earlier in the day while speaking at the Akron Roundtable luncheon, Horrigan defended the raises for his cabinet when an audience member questioned the move. While the new mayor yanked his position out of the proposed ordinance, he allowed the cabinet members to remain.
“I don’t believe in separating out the management staff, as opposed to nonbargaining and bargaining,” he said. “I left them in to be able do that. I understand your concern to do that but it was a conscious choice to be able to do it.”
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.