Niles Council splits over revised pay raises
A divided city council split 4-3 Wednesday on moving a pay raise ordinance for city officials, including the mayor and council members, to a third and final reading despite amending the legislation reducing the size of several of the pay hikes.
Only six members of council were available to vote following the sudden resignation of the seventh member, P.J. Kearney (D-1st Ward). With the vote deadlocked at 3-3, council President Robert Marino had to cast the deciding vote in favor, as was the case in the first reading two weeks ago.
“There was some concern over the amount of the raises,” said Sheri Smith (D-2nd Ward), who chairs the finance committee. “We did due diligence and found similar salaries in comparably sized Ohio cities.” Smith said the percentage of some of the pay increases in those cities exceeds the percentages in the Niles legislation.
The amended ordinance reduces the amount of the pay increase for Mayor Steven Mientkiewicz from $79,695 in the first reading to $70,085 in the second reading. Mientkiewicz’ reaction: “I’m not in this for the money,” he told 21 News.
The salary of Auditor Giovanne Merlo, which would have been increased to $70,000 effective next January, will be spread out over a four-year period. In response to a question from Marino, Merlo said the amended ordinance reduces the total amount of the pay increases by $30,000.
Under state law, the final vote on the pay hikes must be completed prior to the November 5 general election in which all ward and at-large seats on Niles Council are on the ballot. Smith said she expects council to hold a special meeting for the final vote “within a few days.”
In another item, council unanimously approved establishing a non-profit community improvement corporation to act as the city’s agency for redevelopment. “We want to drive business to the city,” said Mayor Mientkiewicz noting that most of the focus will be on downtown revitalization. The city’s previous CIC lost its charter in 2014 when it failed to meet at least once that year according to state requirements. Councilman Barry Profato (D-at large) who heads council’s economic development committee is vice-chairman of the 15-member board of directors, most of whom are local business executives. “We want to take advantage of their expertise,” Profato said.