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Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Salary and benefits policies under scrutiny

Council members to consider establishing consistent guideline

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Mayor Sharon LaRue has not had to contribute toward her health insurance plan since taking office in 2004.
City council members are reviewing policies that set the salary and benefits of elected city officials. At a recent personnel and finance committee meeting, LaRue said when she became mayor she was told she didn't have to contribute toward her plan.
According to a city ordinance from 1999, the mayor is to receive a $15,000 annual salary and all paid fringe benefits provided to full-time city employees. The mayor's position is part time, although LaRue voluntarily works full time, city officials said.
City auditor Emily Stewart said city employees did not begin paying for their insurance until 2005.
Stewart told the newspaper that council needs to address the issue and explicitly state in the ordinance how much - if any - the mayor needs to contribute toward his or her insurance plan. The free health care provision is not explicitly documented, according to Stewart.
A new mayor will take office in January. LaRue lost the primary to Jeff Hazel, who faces Democrat Craig Klopfleisch and independent Ron Hammons in November.
According to Stewart, the city paid $16,700 for insurance coverage of LaRue and her spouse Phil in 2010. LaRue also elected to purchase dental and vision for herself and her husband in 2010 for $1,050.
Councilman Mike Sovinski said the mayor's free insurance policy could affect future negotiations with city employees. Councilman June Scott asked if there has been an issue, which Sovinski replied no.
Some council members pointed out that the mayor's position only earns $15,000 a year and warrants the paid insurance.
"It's not an apples-to-apples comparison," councilwoman Angie King said.
Councilman Jeff Larmore said he believes full-time employees should get health insurance but questioned why council members - who earn $4,500 a year - are allowed to purchase insurance through the city. The city does not pay a portion of that cost.
Elected officials earn and are eligible for the following salaries and benefits:
• Mayor - $15,000 annual salary and free health insurance, although that is not documented.
• Municipal court judge - Established by the Ohio Supreme Court, with no increases in city or state portions since 2008, the judge earns $61,750 a year from the city, plus an additional $1,500 year as the presiding administrative judge and $52,350 a year from the state, according to Stewart. Mercer County reimburses Celina 40 percent of the judge's salary, according to Ohio law. Judge James Scheer in 2010 paid $35 a payroll - or $910 total - for his insurance in 2010, a total personal contribution of 5 percent, Stewart said.
• Law director - Established by city ordinance, the law director earns $62,000 a year. However, the ordinance expires at the end of the year and Sovinski has suggested freezing the salary for next year. Law director Kevin McKirnan paid $58.50 a payroll - or $1,521 total - for his insurance in 2010, a total contribution of 10 percent, according to Stewart. McKirnan will not serve as law director next year as he lost the primary to George Moore, who is uncontested in November.
• Auditor - Established by city ordinance, the auditor earns $54,000 a year. However, the ordinance expires at the end of the year and Sovinski has suggested freezing the salary for next year. Stewart paid $35 a payroll - or $910 total - for her insurance in 2010, a total personal contribution of 5 percent.
• City treasurer, president and council members - Established by city ordinance, all earn $4,500 a year and can purchase health, medical and life insurance at their own cost.
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