Village Council

Council to vote on pay raise

Village Council members at their Dec. 17 meeting continued a discussion on increasing the stipend for Council members. They will vote on the first reading of a pay raise ordinance at their Jan. 7 meeting. The final vote will take place at the Jan. 22 meeting.

The proposal to increase Council pay, initially made by Judith Hempfling at Council’s Dec. 3 meeting, suggests raising the stipend from the current $4,000 per year to $7,200 a year. Hempfling stated that her purpose is to broaden the field of those who can afford to spend the time and energy demanded by holding a Council seat.

“This is a democratizing step,” Hempfling said. “To the extent that you pay people nothing, it means a lot of people can’t do it.”

Council last voted a pay raise in 2009, when the Council stipend went from $2,100 per year to $4,000 per year. Before that, the most recent raise took place in 1996.

In comparison to Council, members of the Miami Township Board of Trustees make $11,305 per year, which is based on the size of budget the trustees oversee, and is the maximum amount allowed by the Ohio Revised Code for that size budget, according to Township Clerk Margaret Silliman in an interview last week. The trustees also receive full health insurance coverage, while Village Council members receive no health coverage.

The total annual cost of the Council raise would be about $20,000, which would come out of the Village’s General Fund budget of $3.1 million.

The topic was initially brought to Council’s attention by Village Manager Laura Curliss, who suggested that Council needed to raise pay to the higher amount so that Council members would be eligible for retirement benefits from the Ohio Public Employee Retirement Fund. The increase would take effect only after next November’s election. Hempfling, who has announced that she will leave Council within a few months, would not receive the pay raise, which would only benefit those Council members who continue to serve after next November.

Council members who spoke on Dec. 17 agreed that the stipend should be raised, given Council’s heavy workload.

“If I weren’t retired, I could only do a fraction of the work that’s needed” for Council, said Gerry Simms, Council’s newest member. “For future Council members, I think we need to raise the pay.”

Askeland and Walkey stated that they agreed with Hempfling’s concern regarding the need to broaden the field of those who can afford to hold Council seats.

Villager Richard Lapedes, formerly a member of the Yellow Springs Board of Education, said that, “I couldn’t agree more” with the proposal to raise pay. “Running the Village is much more sophisticated than it was 10 years ago,” he said.

However, Phyllis Schmidt argued that the impulse behind serving on Council should be the desire to perform community service, not to make money. She also questioned whether the most recent property tax levy would have passed if villagers knew it would be used for higher Council wages.

Council members should consider, she said, whether the higher stipends “are going to buy something for you or something for the people of the village.”

Paul Abendroth suggested that if Council members are working too hard, perhaps they are “taking on too much,” and micromanaging projects that Village staff should be managing.

In other Council business:

• Council members continued their discussion on a policy for art in public spaces. They plan to vote on the policy at their Jan. 7 meeting.

The policy, sparked by a controversy over an exhibit of nudes in the Bryan Center last spring, has been a contentious one between Council members, who favor having a clear policy regarding art in Village-owned facilities, and local artists, who in the past have viewed such a policy as censorship.

However, the policy proposed on Dec. 17, which Curliss said was her fifth draft, seemed to meet the artists’ approval.

“We’re all much more satisfied,” said Jerome Borchers of the Yellow Springs Arts Council. Borchers suggested some changes in the policy’s language, stating that some of the current language “is too subjective.”

Borchers also requested that Council wait to vote on the policy until Jan. 7 so that artists could have time to review it. The proposed policy can be found online at www.yso.com, click on Council packet for Dec. 17.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution that authorizes Curliss to enter into a one-year contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for health insurance for Village employees. This year the Village will offer employees only the option for the high-deductible HSA plan, with the Village paying for a portion of the deductible, according to Curliss.

‘•Council unanimously approved a resolution that allows Curliss to enter into a contract with Greene County Regional Planning for zoning administration services. Previously, local zoning issues had been handled by a Village employee rather than being contracted out.

The fee for the contracted service is $42 per hour for Planner Steven Anderson and $34 per hour for Anderson’s assistant, Curliss said. The Village has budgeted $20,000 this year for the contracted service, compared to the $60,000 spent up until now for a Village employee, Curliss said.

Local builder Beth Holyoke expressed concern that contracting out zoning services would present a hardship for builders.

“There’s a lot of back and forth. We need someone there to talk to,” Holyoke said.

Anderson or his assistant plans to be present at Village offices one half day per week, and at other times either Curliss or Village employee Denise Swinger will answer questions, Curliss said.

• Council unanimously approved the second reading of the 2013 budget for the Village, along with supplemental spending for the fourth quarter of 2012.

• During citizens’ concerns, Sue Abendroth urged Council to hear both sides regarding the question of whether to spray mosquitoes next summer to prevent West Nile virus in the village. Abendroth stated that Council had already heard from local environmental activists, and should also hear from health department professionals.

“It’s imperative that Council and village residents actually know what they’re risking if they make this decision” not to spray, she said.

Hempfling stated that she agreed “that it’s important to be careful about what we do.”

• Council met in executive session regarding issues of personnel and pending litigation.

• Council meets next on Monday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

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