By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Village officials are considering substantial raises for Lowellville’s seven full-time employees.
To Mayor James Iudiciani Sr., these seven employees — the police chief, captain, sergeant and patrolman; the street-department maintenance mechanic and laborer; and the sewage-plant operator — are “grossly underpaid,” with salaries that are simply an “embarrassment.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” Iudiciani said, referring to the proposed raises. “I’ve been saying this for at least a couple of years, and it’s time we start taking care of our full-timers.”
Now might be the right time, he added, explaining that a portion of carryovers into 2014 from both the general fund and the sewage plant totaling about $350,000, along with a reimbursement of up to $39,000 from the Ohio Department of Transportation for a 2012 paving project, could be used to fund these raises.
Budgeting those raises, he said, will not hinder the village financially.
Within the police department, Iudiciani would like to increase Chief Ryan Bonacci’s $38,196 salary to about $50,000. He’d also like to establish a more comprehensive pay scale, as Capt. Stacy M. Karis, Sgt. Donald Coppola and patrolman Jeremy Cramer are all paid $30,282 annually, despite varying duties and responsibilities.
For Karis, who also serves as school-resource officer in Lowellville, the suggested new salary is $44,000. For Coppola, it is $42,000, and $38,000 for Cramer.
Iudiciani arrived at these salaries by examining the pay scales of surrounding police departments: McDonald, New Middletown, Poland Township and Poland village.
Among those departments, the average chief’s salary was approximately $52,000. In addition, the average sergeant’s salary was about $40,000, while the average patrolman’s salary was $34,000. Only one of those — McDonald — listed a captain’s salary, and it was $41,280, he found.
It takes money to run government, Iudiciani said, and those numbers clearly indicate that Lowellville must allocate more money toward paying its full-time employees “like they should be paid.” Both Bonacci and Karis already have been approached by better-paying police departments about potential jobs, he said.
“They’re doing a great job, and they’re quality people,” he added. “We want to keep them here, and we don’t want to lose them to other departments that pay more money.”
Bonacci said the mayor and members of council have long “done an excellent job of taking care of us and supporting us,” but explained that “every extra little bit of money helps,” especially as the cost of living continues to increase.
Right now, the Lowellville Police Department has a strong roster, Bonacci said, and he doesn’t want to see anyone leave.
“I absolutely love Lowellville and would never dream of going anywhere else,” he added, “but it would be nice to have a little increase in pay.”
Village officials also are looking into raises for Jeff Wildes, street-department maintenance mechanic, whose salary likely would increase from $30,384 to $38,000; Steve Horvath, street-department laborer, whose salary likely would increase from $21,880 to $30,000; and Tom Wolfgang, assistant waste-treatment plant operator, whose salary likely would increase from $28,932 to $32,000.
Councilman Ronald Rotunno added that council members, himself included, will review the village’s budget soon to determine exactly what they can afford to pay those employees.
“We’ve given them raises before,” Rotunno said, “but we’re trying to bring them up to where villages the same size as we are should be.”
A permanent 2014 budget for the village must be passed by March.