Out of the 24 responses to our poll on whether or not City Council members are employees, 38% of respondents replied. “They are volunteers”. As I had expected, there was a significant percentage of residents that were unaware that the council members become paid employees of the City once elected.
Council person compensation
Each council member receives $250 every three months in the form of a stipend. While there is no description of what the pay is to be used for, most past City Council members have used the funds to offset dry cleaning expenses, gas to go to and from public events, and other administrative expenses related to the position. I don’t think that there has been anyone who has ever calculated actual expenses of a City Council member, $1,000 may have been a round number that was there to ensure that no council member had any undue financial burden related to the office to which they have been elected and to also allow those who run for office to not be discouraged by the financial costs associated with being an elected official. While the pay is not so great, all city council members are actually considered employees.
Council person health insurance
In 1994 when Council adopted health insurance for themselves along with all City employees not part of the City’s master bargaining agreement, they never expected such a furor 17 years later. As Council members are paid a yearly stipend, they were also under guidelines able to receive health insurance benefits beneath the City’s plan. I don’t recall that there was any particular discussion about whether or not health insurance was a benefit that City Council members should receive at the time, as it was already part of the existing compensation plan for employees, City Council simply adopted it at the time.
City Council members elected or appointed after November 5, 1991, electing to accept such coverage, shall be entitled to group hospitalization/major medical insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions said coverage is made available to other non-collective bargaining unit personnel as stated under § 37.26
Now, 17 years later and during the last council election cycle, several candidates for council ran on a belief that City Council members should serve as entirely unpaid servants to the City, with much of that reasoning begin drawn because our City finances (specifically our capital budget) is highly indebted.
Even though council member health insurance comes out of the operating budget (which is balanced) and not the capital budget (which is about $250,000 in the hole for 2011) there has been a wave of support recently to strip all benefits from council members, cut salaries, reduce employees, eliminate raises, nix the Christmas lights and 4th of July fireworks, and remove “public enhancements” like parks… anything not absolutely necessary to the base operation of a city.
Bring in the Union
Employees of Tipp City have taken note of the recent wave of public discontent with them. Several months ago, the Tipp City Police sergeants decided that it was in their best interests to join their fellow officers and roll into a collective bargaining agreement, all in order to secure their jobs and their salary/benefits. Public talk of cutting the water/sewer and administrative staff’s pay or benefits may also tip the employees of those departments to consider unionizing in an effort to also lock in their pay and benefits.