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City OKs $10,000 for new clerk hire



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May 04, 2011 - When it came to negotiating a salary for a new city clerk, City Manager Dennis Ritter wouldn't budge.

"I am totally opposed to anything other than what is before us tonight, it's just that simple. We can't function properly and completely, and proficiently as we need to," Ritter said at the April 25 council meeting. "As the city manager I know what it takes to run this operation, we need what I'm proposing tonight."

The proposal to hire a new city clerk for a salary of $9,802 for 11-13 hours per week passed, 4-3. Councilmen James Brueck, Charles Inabnit, and Councilwoman Peggy Roth voted against the proposal.

"The reason I voted no was I didn't think we had enough information to make a decision and I thought it was premature," Roth said.

Treasurer Kim Howe, who previously served as clerk and treasurer, will continue to draw a salary of $14,500. The $9,802 for the clerk will be taken out of the general fund this year.

"The review and amendment of the budget resulted in an additional $19,866 added to our existing $147,000 fund balance," Ritter said. "Out of that is where we're going to draw money from to fund the new clerk's position for the balance of this fiscal year."

Brueck said a town hall meeting is scheduled in two weeks to discuss reducing the budget. Adding an extra $10,000 wasn't helping the cause.

"The city is no bigger. It's smaller in fact by the last census and yet somehow we seem to want to spend more money," Brueck said. "We're going the wrong direction with structured cost to keep the doors open. It doesn't do one more thing for the citizens other than take money out of their pocket."

Councilman Steve Hargis said he struggled with it too, but feels like the city has been operating with its "head in the sand."

"From my observation, that clerk/treasurer job doesn't work with one person," Hargis said. "I think all we're doing is facing reality, finally, that we have to have someone who can do the job and this is going to cost us 10 grand."

Mayor Joe Luginsk agreed they need to do something different, and they've been "behind the eight ball for many, many years" in terms of pay and expectations.

"We still have a city to run and we have to have employees who are competent, able, and can do the job and it's tough to find them for eight bucks an hour, when you can go to McDonald's and make $8 an hour for the night shift," Luginski said. "Do we want McDonald's employees or are we looking for higher quality of employee to do the jobs we need them to do?"

Inabnit said it's the cost of being a city and he is embarrassed by how much they pay employees for the amount of work expected; however, he could not vote in favor of the position because they don't know where the money for the clerk is going to come from next year.

"We're trying to save money here, but we're just not doing it," he said. "I'm sure she's a well qualified candidate, but we're just cutting ourselves to death here."

Where the money was coming from was a big question for resident and former councilman Cory Johnston.

"I can understand that if you want good people it's going to cost more money. Given that, where are we going to get $10,000? We are at our maximum millage, you can't charge more. You charge fees for just about everything you do now maybe you can squeeze a little more," Johnston said. "I'm paying very high taxes as far as I am concerned and I know we've had to accept what we get from employees because we pay what we pay, but nobody has said where the money is coming from for all these great things you want to buy."

A frustrated Dennis Ritter said "this is not a 'what if' world."

"It's what it is. Where are we going to get the money for next year? Where are we going to get it from the following year? You can't pass a budget in June to try and figure out where we're going to get the money to maintain a position or for that matter an activity, service that's going to happen a year away," Ritter said. "I'm sick and tired of hearing this drivel."

Councilman Richard Bisio who sits on the finance committee said they've talked about a number of things that they're looking at, one of which is restructuring the library contract with Independence Township.

"I'm hopeful the finance committee can work on next year's budget and not only present a budget, now that includes the additional $10,000, but also continue working the rest of the year on additional ways to save money and reduce our expenses," Bisio said.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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