LIMA — A hot topic that has fueled many debates and committee meetings the past several months now seems to have found an end.
Councilors voted 6-1 to compromise on a mayoral salary of $123,500 during a special council meeting Monday. That salary will take effect in the next election cycle. The next elected term would begin Dec. 1, 2017. That means if Mayor David Berger runs for and wins re-election, he will take a pay cut. His current salary is $132,000.
The salary will be frozen at that level for two years, with a built-in cost-of-living raise peaked at 3 percent beginning in 2019.
The special meeting lacked the presence of Councilman Derry Glenn, who was unable to be present because of the medical condition of a family member. However, the council still needed a majority of votes — five — to approve any proposal. The council rejected two separate proposals, $120,000 and $127,500, by 4-3 votes where Glenn’s vote might have provided the difference.
Jesse Lowe II provided the only “no” vote in the final approval.
The documents will now be drawn up so the ordinance can be adopted in three readings with a another special meeting likely to be scheduled. However, it didn’t go over that easy.
Councilmen Sam McLean and Lowe made a motion and seconded the salary initially at $120,000, saying it was a compromise of what they were hearing from the public and what other councilors were looking for.
“I don’t begrudge what he makes,” McLean said of the position, ” but I want what is fair and equitable. We are to look over the money as a council, it’s that simple.”
Lowe, who had suggested a figure as low as $85,000 at previous meetings, said that everyone he talked to felt the mayor made too much. He said that reflected people’s opinion of the job the current mayor, David Berger, has done.
“I haven’t seen a $100,000 job being done,” Lowe said. “If he was bringing in jobs, or businesses, it might be different. But the people haven’t seen that. They are disappointed. However, I am willing to compromise. I don’t like it, but I believe we need to show some kind of unity.
The council then resumed discussion to try and come up with another figure. Councilwoman Ann Miles said that no matter what decision the council made, they were not going to be able to please everyone.
“This has divided us and consumed us,” Miles said. “We have better things to be consuming our time, our focus.”
Councilman Todd Gordon said he was torn on the issue because he didn’t like cutting people’s salary. He also felt that a pay scale should be able to be applied despite the impossibility of it.
“I am a union man,” Gordon said. “When you work hard for somewhere and you are there for a long time, you get pay raises.”
Council President John Nixon then motioned to set the pay at $127,500 with a second from Gordon, however it again failed at 4-3. McLean, Lowe, Rebecca Kreher and Miles voted “yes” on the initial salary and Gordon, Adams, Miles and Nixon supported the second proposal.
After a third round of discussion, McLean said he was willing to compromise yet again just to get the topic “off of the table and out of our hair.” Lowe stuck to his guns in the final vote.
“I bit a serious bullet for $120,000,” Lowe said. “I’d do it for $100,000. He [Berger] didn’t even show up tonight. What does that say? I am not going to budge anymore from the $120,000. That was my compromise.”
The meeting did not lack its hecklers, as two people felt it was too high and urged councilors to not support anything more than the $120,000 mark. Tim Guthrie, a resident who has remained openly critical of the salary feeling it was too high, made several remarks during the meeting. After one final remark after councilors approved the third and final motion, Nixon ordered a police officer to remove Guthrie from the council chambers. However, Guthrie left without having to be removed.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm.