Ordinance 2015-09 was introduced last night (see video above). This legislation proposes to reduce the salaries of Council and the Mayor beginning in 2016. This measure would realize a cost savings of $37,000 for the City annually. Furthermore, it would show that we, as elected officials, are serious and willing to share in the pain of correcting our problems.
“The amount of [savings] is not so important as our setting an example as elected officials that we are willing to lead the charge in making the difficult decisions that affect us personally.”
Maple Heights is Out of Options
For the past year, city officials have held onto the vain hope that more money is going to come from somewhere. They have begged the residents to pass levies. They bemoaned the lack of help from State officials. It is time to sober up and realize that we have to fix this ourselves.
Regardless of City Hall’s denial, Maple Heights is in Fiscal Emergency. This declaration by the State Auditor’s office means that our City is in a very serious situation; it is time for serious action. The choices that need to be made will not be pleasant.
As a City, roughly 60 percent of our costs are personnel (wages and benefits). Therefore, it is infeasible that Maple Heights can sufficiently reduce its expenses without reducing personnel costs. However, we need enough personnel to run the City.
So what does this mean? It means that we need to maintain the number of employees we have, but at reduced compensation. In the immediate future, our only option is to reduce salaries and benefits.
This is why we need to lead by example. We cannot ask our employees to do something we are not willing to do ourselves.
A Voluntary Salary Reduction Would Be Meaningful
Our challenges in Maple Heights are just as much about trust as finances. More than a year ago, I told city council and the mayor that residents do not trust them and will not give them more money. Four failed levies have proven than point.
The administration has presented misleading and pie-in-the-sky budgeting numbers for the past three years. Council has tried to deny residents their constitutional right to petition their government about the traffic cameras. City government has even refused to comply with the Sunshine Laws. These actions have lead residents to question the integrity of their government.
If City officials ever hope to pass a tax levy in the future, they need to earn the trust of residents. Scare tactics and emotional appeals are not going to work at this point in time. The only way to earn that trust is to show a tangible commitment to doing whatever is necessary to save the City.
Willingly taking a salary reduction as City officials is one way to win the trust and cooperation of the residents and employees of Maple Heights. That cooperation will be absolutely essential in the days ahead.
Is it Reasonable?
The proposed salary for members of council is $9,000. This would equate to $173 per week for council, which is a part time position. The proposed salary for the mayor is $75,000. A brief analysis of the salaries of similar-sized municipalities in the area shows that Maple is currently in the higher end of the compensation spectrum:
- Shaker Heights councilmembers currently earn $3,000 less than their counterparts in Maple Heights.
- The Mayors in Fairview Park and Parma Heights both make significantly less that the Mayor in Maple.
- At least five mayors make less than the Maple Heights Mayor.
- At least seven cities pay their councilmembers less than Maple.
Remarkably, almost all of these cities who compensate their elected officials less have annual budgets much larger than that of Maple Heights. In light of this analysis, these proposed reductions make sound financial sense.
The question is whether Maple Heights city officials are willing to lead from the front.