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Council Bumps City Manager Pay, CCA Funding Ahead Of Final Budget Vote

cincinnati city hall
Jason Whitman
/
WVXU
Cincinnati City Hall

A Cincinnati Council committee Monday approved minimal changes to the proposed $1.5 billion budget before passing it on to full council for likely approval Wednesday.

The Budget and Finance Committee voted to add another $100,000 to the budget increase for the city's police oversight board, and to approve Mayor John Cranley's proposed 5% raise for City Manager Paula Boggs Muething.

Citizen Complaint Authority

The Citizen Complaint Authority requested an additional $460,000 to hire five new staff members, in part to manage a backlog of more than 130 cases older than 90 days. CCA Director Gabe Davis says it will take years to work through the backlog without additional support.

The administration's proposed budget didn't include the requested increase; last week, the committee voted to allocate $250,000 in unanticipated surplus to the CCA. In a meeting Monday, Council Member Greg Landsman said he's now convinced that's not enough to meet the need.

"It was the administration's view that they could make a substantial difference, if not catch up entirely, at $250,000. That's a different opinion than the CCA; the board believes they need the additional resources," Landsman said. "The additional money is a way to invest in the CCA so that they have the resources to do what we've asked them to do. And I think the smaller amount is perceived by many as nickeling-and-diming one of the most important achievements we've made."

The committee voted 6-2 to approve Landsman's proposal to divert $100,000 from a general contingency fund to the CCA instead. Council Member Betsy Sundermann and Interim Member Steve Goodin opposed the motion.

"I'm worried we're setting up full-time employees in perpetuity," Sundermann said. "Could we make an amendment that says 'temporary contract employees' and that would clear it up; and we can vote the money through, they can get the backlog through?"

Iris Roley, who was instrumental in negotiating the Collaborative Agreement that established the CCA two decades ago, shouted from the back of council chambers: "Stop trying to run the CCA! Let the director do that!"

Landsman did not accept the amendment to his proposal.

A majority of council supports a total $400,000 increase. That will require another $50,000 allocation from surplus in the current budget, which could get a full council vote as soon as Wednesday.

"I think it really speaks well for City Council if we can meet the full request," said Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney. "Because we know how important community-police relations are, and how important it is to clean up the backlog; the mess that was made by not funding CCA in the past."

Merit Raise For City Manager

The committee voted 5-3 to approve a 5% merit raise for the city manager. Council Member Chris Seelbach proposed a motion to remove the raise from the budget.

"For someone making $45,000 to maybe get a 2% raise, while someone making $250,000 gets a 5% raise, doesn't make sense to me," he said.

Boggs Muething is the highest-paid city employee, with a current salary of about $252,000. The 5%  raise equals about $12,600.  

Council Member Wendell Young said Boggs Muething has done a fantastic job in the role, but he still voted against it. 

"She's the highest-paid city employee we have," Young said. "I don’t understand the urgency that seems to attach itself to granting her a $12,000 pay raise. I just don't get that."

Council passed an ordinance in 2016 laying out a process for a yearly review of the city manager, including that council would consider a raise after such a review. Such a review didn't happen for Boggs Muething. Deputy City Solicitor Emily Smart Woerner says council has never used the review process, and it doesn't have to.

"Ordinances that are passed by the council that govern the council are kind of in a unique category in that the decision is always the current council," she said. "So it's within your discretion to follow the process that was outlined in the 2016 ordinance, or to do something different."

Most council members spoke highly of Boggs Muething, who took the job permanently in October after serving as interim city manager since June 2020.

"She has worked during a really, really difficult time," Kearney said. "It's been really tough and she's stepped in and done a very good job. And so I think we need to reward her with this raise."

The raise is part of the overall Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget, which is expected to get final approval Wednesday.