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Village Council— Pay hike gets initial OK

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At their Jan. 7 meeting, Village Council members approved 4–1 the first reading of an ordinance to raise Council members’ stipends from $4,000 a year to $7,200. Council members will take the final vote on the ordinance at their Jan. 22 meeting.

Voting in favor were Judith Hempfling, who had proposed the pay raise, Lori Askeland, Gerry Simms and Rick Walkey. Karen Wintrow voted against.

The raise takes affect after the November 2013 elections, and does not affect Council members’ paychecks until that time.

The purpose of the raise is to broaden the pool of villagers who feel they can afford to be on Village Council, according to Hempfling, who compared the raise to the moment in American history when those who held public office began receiving pay for their efforts, rather than serving as volunteers.

“The decision to pay representatives so that ordinary citizens could afford to spend the time it takes was a democratizing act,” Hempfling said, emphasizing that the Council position is time consuming and demanding.

The $7,200 amount for the hike was chosen because it’s the minimal amount that allows Council members to draw retirement benefits from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), according to Village Manager Laura Curliss.

However, not all Council members will be invested in the OPERS, according to Askeland, who described her vote as “a vote for the next Council.”

Voting against the ordinance, Wintrow stated that remuneration for Council members is “not an easy thing to talk about. Elected officials are never paid what they deserve. I believe the work we do deserves fair compensation.”

Because the $7,200 figure seemed “somewhat arbitrary” and she had voted against a pay raise when Council passed the last one in 2009, Wintrow said she would do so again.

Sue Abendroth also spoke against the pay raise, stating that, “I think paying yourselves this much is an abuse of the principle involving community service” in being a public official. “I think it’s unseemly, inappropriate and grandiose of you to think we should pay you enough to get retirement.”

Becky Campbell also opposed the raise, stating that “I don’t agree that only people with money serve. The people who want to serve, serve.”

However, Richard Lapedes, a former school board official, spoke in favor of the raise, calling Village Council “school board on steroids, much more complex and demanding.”

“I believe you’re not fairly paid, and paying more fairly will attract more candidates with different backgrounds.”

Other Council business from Jan. 7, including the new Village public spaces arts policy and a discussion on whether Council should help to fund nonprofits, will be covered in next week’s News.

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