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Warren has been struggling financially over the years and the effects are evident from a dwindling police force to a fire department that is operating on a federal grant to keep firefighters employed. Some city workers have not seen a raise in more than six years.
Warren Councilman Vince Flask, D-5th, said council members are in need of a raise and brought the issue to City Council on Monday. Law Director Greg Hicks said a raise is unlikely because of an ordinance on the books since 1999. The law states that pay raises for elected officials must be in place prior to the primary for the year in which they were elected.
“He would be unable to raise the salaries of the council that would be seated at the first of year,” said Hicks.
Flask has asked for legislation to repeal the law so they can move forward with the raises, which he said are needed because of the changes to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. Public employees must make a minimum of $1,000 a month. Warren city council members make $11,109 a year or $926 dollars a month. Flask is looking to increase that to $13,000.
In addition to the pay raises, Flask is looking at the possibility of members of council receiving full health care benefits, which is not required to meet the PERS requirement.
According to the Warren City Auditor’s office, the pay raises and health care would cost the city about $132,000 a year. Outgoing Council President Bob Dean said they could hire at least three more police officers with that amount of money.
“We have had layoffs for I don’t know how long, and we are going to ask ourselves to give council a raise?” said Dean. “We got firemen and police officers that worry about their jobs. How’s that work?”
There could be more of a domino effect if council approves the pay raise. According to the Warren firefighter’s contract, if any elected official gets a raise, they too would get a pay increase. It could also play a big role when it comes to upcoming negotiations with the police and fire unions who also have not seen a raise in more than six years.