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Youngstown leads in city council salaries, benefits

Published: Sun, October 7, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.



A comparison of council salaries for nine Ohio cities reveals that Youngstown council members not only earn the most but also are among the few who receive health benefits.

A look at council salaries for nine cities with similar population sizes to Youngstown – Canton, Lorain, Hamilton, Parma, Springfield, Elyria, Kettering and Lakewood – revealed annual salaries ranging from $300 to $27,817, with an average salary of $13,866.

The populations in those cities ranged from 52,131 to 81,601, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau.

With a population of 66,982, Youngstown council members earn $27,817 — $8,653 more than council members in Parma, which has the second highest salary of the nine cities. Parma has a population of 81,601. Also, Youngstown council members receive a health care benefits package, which includes dental and medical coverage, worth $16,668.

Of the eight council members, only Annie Gillam, D-1st, hasn’t enrolled for health care benefits. Those who have taken the entire health package are Jamael Tito Brown, council president; Paul Drennen, D-5th; L. Nathanial Pinkard, D-3rd; and John R. Swierz, D-7th. Opting for partial coverage are Mike Ray, D-4th, at a cost of $6,612; and Janet Tarpley, D-6th, at $331. T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd, is covered under his wife’s plan. Jasmine Rodgers is a city employee.

In May, the Youngstown Charter Review Commission, which is expected to convene every four years, presented 17 initiatives to the council. These included a salary reduction of about 30 percent for council members and changes in benefits.

The council decided not to put the salary-reduction proposal on the ballot. It did put four initiatives on the ballot: a conflict-of-interest policy, a time period related to daylight-saving time, elimination of mayoral-term limits and language changes on ward redistricting.

As far as Swierz is concerned, the issues of salary and benefit cuts are dead.

“We did not sidestep citizens’ rights with not placing the salary reduction on the ballot,” Swierz said. “If citizens felt that strongly about it, they could have created a referendum to place it on the ballot.”

A referendum would require 1,793 signatures of city residents. The number of signatures must be equal to the 10 percent of city residents who voted in the 2008 presidential election.

At least one group is studying the issue.

“The Neighborhood Leadership Council is looking at various ways to get the charter review’s recommendations on the ballot rather than wait for city council to do something,” said Patricia Dougan, president of the group. “Nothing is set in stone, but we are taking the issues back to the neighborhood groups to see what the people want us to do.”

The charter review commission recommended decreasing council salaries by 30 percent and mandating that members who are eligible for health coverage under a spouse or other job to opt into that coverage.

The commission calculated the salary reduction based on the average wages of a Youngstown resident working a full-time job.

“Council salary will be based on 80 percent of the income of an average resident full time in the city of Youngstown; that number comes out to be about $20,000,” said Phil Kidd, a member of the charter review commission. “That was the recommendation we made.”

Gillam disagreed with the proposal because only council members’ salaries were on the chopping block.

“Why not the mayor?” Gillam asked. “Also, we don’t have a set number of hours we work. Our hours are not continuous; I receive calls at home, and go out to attend banquets within my ward.”

While Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone’s yearly salary of $104,936 was not slated for a reduction, he defends the city council.

“They are worth everything they are being paid,” he said.

Sammarone was a city councilman for 28 years before being elevated to mayor after Jay Williams left the post in August 2011 for a federal job.

Tarpley said the more you pay an individual, the better the quality of work you get from them.

“I probably have the highest crime area in the city, and I am constantly going around night, day and weekends. Being a member of council means you are never off duty. With our economic problems, council members are doing things they wouldn’t normally do, but have to because there is the need for it.”

Still, Youngstown council’s pay and health benefits came as a shock to Canton Councilman Thomas E. West. He doesn’t find a justification for the high salaries.

“Sure there is a decent amount of work involved with being a member of city council, and I’m sure Youngstown has different factors and issues than here in Canton, but it’s mostly a part-time job,” said West.

Canton, which has a population of 73,007, pays its council members $17,843 each year.

Only Drennen voted to place these initiatives on the November ballot.

“Even though I disagreed with a few things the commission proposed, it’s not up to me,” Drennen said. “I have no problem with the community deciding what council salaries are.”

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort between the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, The University of Akron and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).


1MattMarzula(109 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Garbage in. Garbage out.

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2TylerDurden(367 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

The worst run American city in the last half century deserves the highest paid council members for a city that size.

Highest income tax rate in the state, gangs in charge of two sides of town, no real business prospects for the future, no advanced degrees on the council, all of the young talent (almost) can't wait to leave the city, declining population in general, and a history of mass corruption...to name just a few facts.

Gotta get paid though, we be doin" just fine.

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3endthismess(464 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Cut council in HALF. This city does not need all these blabber mouths sitting around doing nothing but arguing about who all the inside hires will be. Stop glorifying these positions with benefits, pensions and miss placed authority of power...then maybe some real "outside" citizens will step up and do the job. All these council leaches need to be voted out, and the citizens should petiton the mayor and create a permanent ballot to vote in who the voters want...and Gilliam...is nothing more than her husband's mouth piece, who is also a complete busy body, snoop who thinks he can cut deals behind council's back.They both think her job is their private little counrty club and social step ladder. Walk her to the door and then wave good bye.

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4busyman(239 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Amazing! These are starting wages for college graduates in this area. How many of these people are retired or have this job as full time? This is the same council that still wants the third judge in the city. Go figure. The jobs were set up decades ago for individuals that want to take some direction in how their city was run. They were paid a small sum for participation, not to make a full salary. Mayor Samarone said you get the best people for the money. Don't these people get voted in? A highschool dropout with a good salesmans pitch can win one of these jobs. How does that back up Samarone's comment? Learn from the Railroads. It is time to take the caboose off of the end of the gravey train. You could take down a few more homes or hire more police and fire for this city. Just my view!!!

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5TylerDurden(367 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

"The Republican party - where rich people are jealous about how awesome the middle-lower class have it."


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6southsidedave(5199 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

So, why am I not surprised?

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7Rooster(80 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

One of them said if we wanted to cut the part-timers salaries, we should cut the mayor's too. Is the mayor being paid more than any other mayor in the State, too? Seems like I read some time ago, that these part-timers got to hire a full-time helper with a fat salary and benefits, and usually gave that job to some of their relations. Wonder why that position isn't in the benefits calculation. Dental too. My my.

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8Rooster(80 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Maybe it was the school board part-timers that got to hire out a full-time helper. I get these scamps mixed up. Anyway, I underestimated these folks - they got Youngstown top-ranked on some kind of list after all. Older I get, the more it surprises me how it's the most incompetent types that are the most cunning scamps. But what I don't pay enough attention to is this - those cunning types are never competent. Seems like there would be some kind of overlap, but I've never seen it happen yet.

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9mrblue(1175 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Only in Youngstown. Of course city council doesn't want this issue on the ballot. They have it made the way it is.

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10georgejeanie(1539 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

I just commented on the GM Lordstown cry babies having to move so they could keep their jobs. This article just made my comments more appropriate. Youngstown is a true cesspool.

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11Briscoe(14 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

It's scary that the citizens of Youngstown actually voted these people into office - many times repeatedly. With the exception of Mr. Drennan, they all should be voted out of office - especially Ms. Gillam. She and her husband have been bilking this city and its citizens for decades. They claim to be looking out for the best interests of the east siders but most that have dealt with them realize that they are on the take and nothing in their ward ever gets done unless you stuff cash into their envelope.

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12YSUguins(19 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Unbelievable! Almost $4k per month for a part time job. (Before anyone starts questioning the $4k, it includes the benefits too). Cut the pay and get rid of the benefits. Get rid of half of them as the city is less than half the size that it used to be. Then hire more policeman with the savings to control the punks who rule the streets. Let the honest and hard working people live a good life again.

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13Peregrine(47 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Congratulations to Kara Pappas and The NewsOutlet.org. The two best articles I have read recently have been from university students. Funny that the front page article came from students and not the professional journalists. When was the last time any local news outlet did an indepth expose of any local issue?

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14walter_sobchak(2727 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

The entire administrative force of Y-town was set up to serve a population of 150,000, not 67,000. Four councilmen should be sufficient. Plus, there is no reason for three municipal judges when the county district courts each serve the same population numbers as these three. Of course, Y-town is a hot-bed of criminal activities with the gangs and other lawlessness.

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15One_Who_Stayed(240 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Sammarone said: “They are worth everything they are being paid,”

This is a joke - right? They're being paid 10 times what they're worth.

Tarpley said the more you pay an individual, the better the quality of work you get from them.

As usual - it's all about money. Anyone in private enterprise achieving these results would have been fired long ago regardless of what their salaries were. These bums need to go, but as long as they can get all of their family members and friends to show up and vote for them, they will continue to retain these cash-cow jobs.

Pretty simple - we need to vote them out of office people. Run against them - vote for their opposition - campaign against them. Whatever you can do will go a long way to removing their worthless asses from this city's bloated payroll.

If we allow them to keep being reelected, we deserve what we get - bad government at great cost. It's up to us - fire them all.

The next argument I hear is "But who will we get instead?" My answer is "Who cares - as long as it's not these bums." If the next guy or gal is not better - fire them too. It's not rocket science.

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16candystriper(575 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Part time work with full time benefits..if you cut out the health care benefits the city can use the funds for demolition.

"In Cuyahoga County, about 80% of the approximately 100 properties per month that the land bank acquires need demolition, but at $10,000
in average cost per demolition, the Cuyahoga Land Bank is struggling to fund this activity."

quote from Housing Wire article

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17IslandMike(764 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

I thought only UNION workers had people complain about how much they earn. Come to think of it, the previous sentence shows the contrast between the two. Members of a union WORK and EARN their pay. TThey actually make do or make something, the city council members do neither. The city is a dump and whenever asked, they always say the city doesn't have money for anything. Well, except the salaries and benefits of council members. Cut the salaries down to $6,000 a year with no benefits and spend the remainder (248k+) on bulldozing the vacant crack houses.

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18WilliamSwinger(341 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

"Members of a union WORK and EARN their pay."

Funniest line ever! Thanks for the laugh! Thirty bucks an hour plus benefits to turn in a bolt on a production line? Labor unions protect the lazy, inept and stupid while raising costs for all and driving industry away. That's a fact. Pull your head out and take a look around at the gem union labor made here.

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