Panel rejects pay raises for city court staff
YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown council’s safety committee is recommending the full legislative body reject a request from municipal court officials to approve raises of between 23.6% and 31.2% for security officers and coordinators.
“The raises are too high,” said Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th Ward and chairwoman of the safety committee Thursday. “The percentages are too high, and the salary numbers are too high.”
Davis said police officers received a 2.5% increase this year, which is in line with what other city unions received, and that department is having significant issues hiring and retaining officers.
Court Administrator David Magura Jr. said even with the requested pay increases, Youngstown court security officers still would be paid less than comparable courts.
“Employee retention is really affecting the safety of the courthouse,” he said.
A salary survey by the Ohio Association for Court Administration shows that most security officers are given medical benefits and other fringe benefits such as vacation time, which isn’t offered in Youngstown, Magura said.
There are no plans to add those benefits, but Magura said council needs to increase the salaries of court security officers to retain them.
Nine of the 28 security officer positions are unfilled, he said.
The security staff has received cost-of-living increases but hasn’t received a raise since 2011, Magura said.
Councilman Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward and a safety committee member, said he didn’t necessarily agree with Magura that more money would keep the security officers at the court.
“It’s a plus, but I’m not buying the argument that you’re going to keep the staff especially in this environment,” Hughes said.
Judge Carla Baldwin said Thursday: “We’re simply asking for an increase in salary to make it more on par with what other jurisdictions are paying their court employees.”
All of the court’s security personnel are commissioned law enforcement officers with several of them working part time for area police departments and other being retired officers, Magura said.
City council declined July 31 to approve the court security pay raises and moved three separate proposals for increases to the safety committee for further discussion.
One proposal is to increase the salary for 28 deputy bailiff security officer positions from $19.05 an hour to $25 an hour, a 31.2% increase.
The other proposals are to increase the assistant bailiff security coordinator’s hourly salary from $20.74 to $25.63, a 23.6% increase, and the hourly pay of the deputy bailiff security coordinator from $22.42 to $27.75, a 23.8% increase.
The positions are for 1,500 hours a year so the annual salaries of the deputy bailiffs would go from $28,531 to $37,500 under this proposal. The annual salary of the assistant coordinator would go from $31,103 to $38,443 and the deputy coordinator’s annual salary would increase from $33,625 to $41,628.
The safety committee Thursday recommended council at its Oct. 18 meeting defeat the three requests for the salary increases at the court.
The safety committee also discussed a long-delayed feasibility study on a Youngstown-run ambulance service. A study was first proposed in February and plans have been repeatedly referred by council to its safety committee.
There are two existing ordinances that the safety committee briefly discussed Thursday.
One was to authorize the board of control to advertise for proposals and enter into a contract with a consultant to perform the study at a cost not to exceed $50,000.
But the safety committee already has said it wanted to add a review of city fire station locations and where to put a possible safety-service campus to the proposal.
Instead of that $50,000 request, the administration proposed council approve at its July 31 meeting an ordinance to have the board of control enter into a $65,000 contract with Public Consulting Group LLC of Boston to do that work.
Law Director Jeff Limbian said at that July 31 meeting that he believed including Public Consulting was what the safety committee wanted. “If I misperceived that, we can certainly put it out for competitive bidding,” he said.
Davis said at that meeting she wanted competitive proposals.
The legislation recommended by the safety committee at a June 22 meeting didn’t include a specific company, but fire Chief Barry Finley made several references to retaining Public Consulting at that meeting.
Finley said at the June 22 meeting that it is not financially feasible for the city to operate its own ambulance service, but he would abide by the study’s results.
Council on June 5 rejected paying $50,000 to Public Consulting for the ambulance study after postponing a vote on the proposal first introduced in February.
Some council members were critical of the plan, the failure to get competitive proposals and that Finley found Public Consulting after doing a Google search.
Finley said Thursday that the administration moved ahead with seeking requests for proposals for the $65,000 study with 15 entities expressing interest.
Reached after the meeting, Limbian said the requests for proposals have a Nov. 15 deadline and “council action is not needed for an RFP. The administration acceded to the safety committee request for an RFP.”
The safety committee is recommending council at its Oct. 18 meeting reject the legislation to authorize the board to enter into a contract for just the ambulance feasibility study at $50,000.
It also recommended council consider the $65,000 contract with Public Consulting. Davis said the committee is only recommending consideration and it is up to council what it wants to do with that legislation though she’s said in the past she wants proposals solicited from different firms.
City council voted Dec. 16 to pay $3.968 million over three-years to Emergency Medical Transport for ambulance service using ARP money with a two-year renewal option. It was the first time the city ever provided a subsidy for ambulance service.
That deal occurred after contract negotiations with American Medical Response, the city’s former longtime ambulance provider, fell apart.
AMR wanted $1.8 million to $2.6 million annually to continue to provide services to Youngstown or it would have ended its contract when it expired Dec. 31.
AMR and EMT said the money is needed to pay for wages and to cover the money lost on runs paid by Medicaid.
Finley said June 22 that about 59% of the city residents are on Medicaid and the federal government would reimburse the city about $110 for an ambulance bill that could be $2,000.