Seals: Explain Salary Increases

WHEELING – Councilman Vernon Seals has no problem with City Manager Robert Herron granting 8- to 11-percent pay raises to the city’s department heads. He just wants to know about it in advance from now on.

“That wages and salaries … $65,000 in the cash carryover. That was so general. There was nothing there for us to actually see where the increases were going,” Seals told Herron during a Monday work session regarding the city’s $27.96 million fiscal 2011 budget plan.

During the July 20 finance committee meeting, Herron presented spending plans for the $1.49 million carryover from fiscal 2009. The line item Seals referred to states: “Wages/Salaries – $65,000.” During that July meeting, Herron announced plans for a 3-percent pay increase for all city employees but made no mention of additional increases for department heads. Council approved the plan for the $65,000 as a budget revision during its Aug. 4 meeting.

Monday, Herron reminded Seals, who serves as chairman of the finance committee, when he told council about the pay increases.

“Mr. Seals, if you remember, we had an executive session on Aug. 18 at the finance committee. I had gone over the procedures and the process during that executive session,” Herron said Monday, noting the pay increases took effect Aug. 23.

During a council meeting last week, however, Mayor Andy McKenzie said the raises were discussed in open session on three occasions.

“I want to set, for the record, that the finance committee, in a public meeting, discussed pay raises on July 20; at a council meeting on Aug. 8 (later clarified to mean Aug. 4), and also a finance committee meeting, which, again, is public, on Aug. 18. … ,” McKenzie said.

Seals asked for more of an explanation regarding employee pay Monday.

“As you know, the (City) Charter does permit the city manager to set the wages and salaries of all employees,” Herron said in reference to Section 40 of the charter.

Seals, however, persisted, noting, “We need to have some kind of a report. We need to know when people get raises. … I mean in black and white.”

Herron told Seals he would provide him a form listing the current salaries of all city employees.

When The Intelligencer asked Herron for a copy of that form after the meeting, the city manager said he would provide it this week.

In a related matter, Wheeling firefighter Jon Barry told council his fellow city employees have given him “a considerable amount of feedback” concerning the department head pay increases – especially since council and Herron have included no pay increases in the fiscal 2011 budget.

“We didn’t get into firefighting to get rich,” Barry said, noting the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 12 has requested a 3-percent wage increase for Wheeling firefighters.

Council and Herron have told the city’s employees to check back with them in regarding raises in July, when the city may receive an anticipated cash carryover from fiscal 2010.

The $27.96 million spending schedule is about $2 million less than the $30 million the city plans to spend in the current fiscal year.

Herron expects to draw $5.9 million directly from the Business and Occupation tax, a decrease of $1.67 million from the current fiscal year. The city manager does plan to hire a B&O auditor to assist with the collection of delinquent taxes. The new employee position would cost $40,000 per year, including wages and benefits, Herron said.

Council members are expected to vote on final adoption of the fiscal 2011 budget during the 7 p.m. March 16 meeting.