Mt. Sterling Council says ‘no’ to wage hikes

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(Posted Aug. 29, 2018)

By Amanda Ensinger, Staff Writer

Mount Sterling village leaders are at odds over Mayor Billy Martin’s request that council honor the previous administration’s promise of raises for two village employees.

“The former administration made an agreement with the present employees that if they progress in their experience, they would be rewarded,” Martin said at council’s Aug. 27 meeting. “We thought it was only fair to take care of our greatest asset, our employees. We need to show them we care and that we are committed to rewarding them if they meet certain goals.”

Martin asked council to approve a $3 hourly pay increase for a water plant operator for obtaining his Water Operator Class 1 certificate and a 75-cent hourly increase for a sewer operator for working enough hours that he can take his waste water license certification. Currently, they make $15.75 per hour and $15 per hour, respectively.

Not all council members support granting the raises.

“We have not seen in writing what they were promised,” said Rebecca Burns, council member and president of council’s finance committee. “I also want to do due diligence to the taxpayers and see where the funds are first. This is why I can’t vote on this.”

Martin argued that he presented the proposed increases to the finance committee prior to the full council meeting and that everyone agreed on the numbers.

“I made a suggestion and after discussions with the president of the finance committee, we recommended an amount that the others on the committee supported, too,” Martin said. “I left and thought this would be approved, then I found out there are second thoughts.”

According to Burns, after the finance committee meeting, the village received the findings of a water and sewer rate study that could affect funding for water and sewer services.

The village contracted with Environmental Engineering Services of Lebanon, Ohio, to study what residents are paying now for water and sewer and if it’s enough to cover the village’s operational costs and existing loans on the water and sewer plants.

“I agree, if we made a promise we should keep it, but we are also in fiscal emergency,” said Becky Martin, council member. “What I see is a large raise, but we are in fiscal emergency. It is not that they don’t deserve the raise; it is the amount. We are spending residents’ money, and we need to be extra careful.”

Council member David Timmons sees it differently.

“If they get the license, they deserve a pay raise,” he said.

Martin said the village could grant the raises and be fine fiscally, despite the recent rate study findings.

Council is holding a special work session at 11 a.m. Sept. 5 to discuss the findings.

Martin said that even with the increases, the two employees would be making less than the average wage for their positions. He also said that the village has significantly fewer employees now, resulting in further savings.

“We can’t afford to lose employees, and they deserve a pay increase for what they have achieved,” Martin said.

Council voted 4-2 against granting the raises, with Rebecca Burns, Becky Martin, Tammy Vansickle and Tom Ward casting “no” votes and David Timmons and Lowell Anderson casting “yes” votes.

After the vote, Martin had harsh words for council.

“We do a lot of talking and don’t get anything done,” he said. “We are staying true to form tonight and have not accomplished a thing. If we lose an employee because of this action, don’t look at me for what to do. I’m going to ask you that voted against this what to do.”

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