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Youngstown council to consider ballot issue

Deciding Wednesday on salary change charter amendment

YOUNGSTOWN — City council will decide Wednesday whether to allow voters to consider a charter amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot that would no longer tie the salaries of the finance and law directors to the mayor.

During a Monday council finance committee meeting, members spoke in support of the proposed amendment.

But Councilwoman Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward, asked about the urgency of the proposal and wants an answer from the law department by Wednesday’s meeting whether the change, if approved by voters, would take place Jan. 1, 2021, or Jan. 1, 2022.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and James Vivo, first assistant law director, said it would begin Jan. 1, 2021, if approved by voters in November.

But Turner said the charter could be interpreted to have the increase begin at the beginning of 2022.

She also suggested the entire charter be reviewed for changes rather than doing just this one item.

Council has to submit the proposal to the Mahoning County Board of Elections by Sept. 4. If fewer than six of council’s seven members don’t vote Wednesday to make it an emergency measure, it wouldn’t take effect for 30 days and thus wouldn’t qualify for the ballot.

The finance and law directors currently are paid $83,949 annually, which is 80 percent of the mayor’s salary, under the city charter.

The proposal would allow city council to set the salaries.

“I like that council would have control, and it makes us more competitive” to hire people for those jobs, Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, said.

Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, also said she prefers council be allowed to set the salary.

The proposal, first discussed Aug. 13 with council members, was initially just for the finance director as Kyle Miasek, the city’s interim finance director, makes slightly more than he would in his old deputy finance director’s job, which pays $83,890.

With management employees set to get 1 percent raises in January, the deputy finance director job would be paid $84,729, which is more than the finance director.

Also, there are a couple of employees who work for Miasek who are paid more than him.

The salary for the finance and law directors hasn’t changed in more than 13 years though Law Director Jeff Limbian gets an additional payment of about $2,500 because he also serves as city prosecutor.

To change the pay of the two directors, the entire salaries section has to be put in front of city voters.

That section includes maintaining the same annual salaries of council members, $27,817.24, and council president, $28,117.24, as well as stating the mayor “must be the highest paid elected official” in the city.

The only change is to the last line of the two-paragraph section to allow for the salaries of the directors to be set by council ordinance.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown acknowledged that some voters could misinterpret the charter amendment as changing the salaries of council members and the lengthy language could result in some people voting against it.

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