How much is the Dayton City Commission costing you?

With huge budget cuts from the state, cuts in federal stimulus funds, and a shrinking population and tax base, cities are facing squeezes all over.

Tipp News Daily had an article about their council cutting health insurance as a benefit for themselves:

Tipp City Council Member Joe Gibson is proposing that the City eliminate health insurance coverage for members of city council effective the end of this year.

via Councilman Gibson Proposes Elimination of Council Health Insurance for Tipp City Council | TippNews DAILY.

Which got me thinking- how much are we paying our very part-time city commission? When I first ran for office 18 years ago, the mayor’s position paid $36,000. The commissioners made around $28,000. They also had a city car, health insurance and were eligible for a pension with 20 years’ service (that’s the main reason Dean Lovelace is running again- he’s 2 years short).

The salaries now from the very helpful Executive Assistant to the Commission:

The mayor’s salary by ordinance is $45,344.00 and you are correct that he has chosen to reduce his pay by 1.92% for 2010; the adjusted salary is $44,470.40.

The commissioners’ salary by ordinance is $37,315.20 and you are correct that each has chosen to reduce his or her pay by 1.92% for 2010; the adjusted salary is $36,608.00.

They still get health insurance and pension eligibility. I believe the cars are gone- but, you still can put a placard in your windscreen and get free parking “On Commission Business” (yep, I have a photo of Matt Joseph’s car at a meter for a presentation on the Downtown Dayton Plan- he wouldn’t kick .75 into the meter).

When I ran in 1993 I thought the salaries were too high;

The mayor’s job is a part-time job. When I’m elected you will have someone who works hard for your money. I will contribute half the $36,000 a year pay to return us to neighborhood schools. Then we can start getting serious about making this city great again. I will punch a clock. An hour Mon.-Fri. in the schools, 2 hours each Mon., Tue. and Thu. in the neighborhoods, 12 hours on Wed. all over, and 6 hours on Saturday. Every fifth weekend I will go to see my grandmother in Cleveland. I will take 3 weeks off a year to relax. I won’t take trips to Germany or Japan on your tab like somebody else.

Obviously my view of public service is a little different than that of the current commissioners. It’s something you do to make a difference, to change the world- not fill your pockets. In a city where $18K is still, 18 years later, probably closer to the average annual take home of our residents, being paid $37K for a part-time job, with benefits is insulting.

But, that’s not all- the commissioners have a shadow commission- full-time employees that manage them. Yep, instead of paying them for “full-time” work- we pay someone else, plus their salaries:

The Clerk of Commission was hired in that position on January 5, 2009. at an annual salary of $79,705.60 and has received no pay raises since that time. In fact, this person is taking the 1.92% pay reduction for 2010, as are most City of Dayton employees.  The Clerk of Commission is hired by the City Commission and is supervised by the Executive Assistant to the Commission.

As Executive Assistant to the Commission, I was hired in that position on January 5, 2009, at an annual salary of $89,294.40 and have received no pay raises since that time. In fact, I am taking the 1.92% pay reduction for 2010, as are most City of Dayton employees.

There are three Legislative Aides who provide assistance to the 5 members of the Commission (the Mayor and 4 Commissioners.)

The first Legislative Aide was hired in that position on May 11, 2009, at an annual salary of $39,000 and has received no pay raises since that time.  In fact, this person is taking the 1.92% pay reduction for 2010, as are most City of Dayton employees.

The second Legislative Aide was hired in that position on January 19, 2010, at an annual salary of $41,995.20 and has received no pay raises since that time.  In fact, this person is taking the 1.92% pay reduction for 2010, as are most City of Dayton employees.

The third Legislative Aide was hired in that position on August 23, 2010, at an annual salary of $38,854.40 and has received no pay raises since that time.  In fact, this person is taking the 1.92% pay reduction for 2010, as are most City of Dayton employees.

All of the Legislative Aides are hired by and report to the Executive Assistant to the Commission.

That’s $209,143.80 in full-time support pay, for a mayor and commissioners who only make: $194,604.80 for their part-time positions. The Clerk of the Commission’s salary is left out- because it’s a position that is called for by the Charter. The Clerk was supposed to be the administrative support for the board of directors- the commission, who were supposed to just set policy and evaluate the City Manager and give him direction.

Arguments could be made that we could save considerable money by eliminating all the assistants- it was the “Executive assistant to the Commission” that was out collecting the campaign contributions for Mayor McLin during her last campaign when the bomb squad was called to her vacant former home/campaign HQ.

Or, we could pay for full time commissioners and a mayor- but, that would be more like a strong-mayor system- subverting the power of the city manager. Or- we could pay our city manager more- and expect more, defocusing the attention on the mayor and the commission.

There is no reason for all of these aides- or the salary we pay the current commission. We could cut the commissions’ pay in half- or more, and ask them to make more of an effort to put the city manager into the role of CEO.

If you look at the combined cost of our commission pay with the aides- it’s $403,708.60. Throw in the insurance, pensions, cell phones, health care, IT support etc.  and we’re spending close to a million a year to have 5 directors for city manager making $150 a year plus benefits. Never mind the money wasted on political campaigns to elect the five members of the royal council.

Could we do something more efficiently? Do you have suggestions? Is a strong mayor the answer?

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David EsratiDavid LauriCivil Servants Are People, TooDRRJohn Ise Recent comment authors
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Just tell me how I can change careers; starting salary for executive assistant or commission clerk would be about a 30% increase compared to what I make as a college professor after 24 years on the job.  (Hm, and those cats aren’t unionized, are they?)

John Ise
John Ise

Great exceprt from “The Price of Government”, a book for “Good Government Types”, but want to do it cheaper and better. Crisis as Opportunity by David Osborne, Beverly Stein, and Jim Chrisinger The Public Strategies Group Our governments are in trouble.  Even after the federal stimulus bill, we’re going to have less money for our schools, our roads, our police, our poor and elderly, our parks—virtually everything government does.  The numbers are staggering, and in many states, cities, and counties, the depth of the problem is unprecedented.   Budgets will be cut deeply, employees will be laid off, and taxes and fees will be raised.  Our leaders, both elected and appointed, face the challenge of their careers. Amidst the carnage, how can we use this crisis as an opportunity to both save money and deliver better results? An audacious question, perhaps.  But we all know that crisis brings opportunity.  During a crisis, the politically impossible become possible—because the alternatives are worse.  For those who have the courage and creativity, the next few years could be the greatest opportunity of their lifetimes to make government work better and cost less—to wipe clean the way we currently do business and create 21st Century government that is results-based. So what could you do to produce better results with less money? 1. Budget to Project Savings from Smarter Spending How about creating a “Smarter Spending” line item in the budget, as Iowa did during the last fiscal crisis.  Iowa’s revenues declined for three years in a row.  Toward the end, the legislature got sick of cutting budgets.  Governor Tom Vilsack offered them a deal: let’s put a line item called “Reinvention Savings” in the budget.  We’ll negotiate over the coming months, as you consider the budget, to find a series of reforms we can agree on that will save $88.5 million.  From that we will subtract the $25 million we’ll need to invest—in technology, innovation grants, community meetings, consultants, and the like—to make the reforms happen.  Bottom line: $63.5 million in savings. After three months of meetings, the governor and legislature agreed on three reforms.  The… Read more »


If you did not mention it in your piece the commissioners, at least in the past for sure, golf for free and any community golf course as well.

Civil Servants Are People, Too
Civil Servants Are People, Too

It seems a bit unreasonable to count heads and declare there are too many staff, without any actual information about what they do or how there time is spent.    I imagine the sheer volume of phone calls and meetings is overwhelming for a larger city.
If anything, they have probably downsized like everyone else and are now doing the work that was once done by twice that many.
Cincinnati has something like 15 or 17 council members doing the same job.  Most of our suburbs have as many or more commissioners serving much smaller communities.
Maybe you can argue about salaries, but you don’t have nearly enough information here to justify cutting heads.

David Lauri

Something like 15 or 17 council members in Cincinnati?  Too bad we don’t have an Internet on which we could look up the actual Cincinnati city council web page to see exactly how many people serve on Cincinnati’s council.
Oh, wait, we do have an Internet and Cincinnati’s city council does have a web page and they have something like 15 or 17 council member if you consider 9 to be something like 15 or 17.
Sorry, that was really sarcastic and mocking of me, but please, it took me all of 60 seconds to find the answer.  Something like 15 or 17?  Really?!?!

Civil Servants Are People, Too
Civil Servants Are People, Too

Sorry, David L, perhaps I was thinking of Cleveland, which has 19 representatives.   Of course, I can be sarcastic too and point out that your brilliant internet search failed to count the Mayor of Cincinnati, which makes 10 elected officials, and also that he has 5 staff all by himself.    How many does Mr. Leitzell have, again?     One?
Mr. E, unfortunately the ‘board of directors’ concept from the business world fails to account for popular elections.   Voters usually expect their elected representative to return their call.    In my experience, the fastest way to piss off a voter is to fail at that simplest of tasks.
In my humble opinion,  most of our local governments in Ohio are beyond the point of doing more with less.   Now the question is where do you decided to simply do less.

David Lauri

Eh, we’re both brilliant, CSAPT.  You forgot to include Cleveland’s mayor in your count of Cleveland’s elected municipal representatives (Cleveland’s mayor, like Cincinnati’s, isn’t considered a member of council and has no vote on council).
But, wow, 20 elected municipal representatives for a population of 396,815 makes for 19,841 people per rep in Cleveland compared to 29,694 per rep in Cincinnati (with a population of 296,943) and 28,305 people per rep in Dayton (with a population of 141,527).  Sounds like Cleveland should be downsizing its council to about 12 + a mayor.
Back to Dayton, if voters expect their representatives to return their calls and if a board of directors concept won’t work, then why not abandon the city manager style of government and elect a mayor and council who’ll be expected to do the work?
And it’d be an interesting exercise (which maybe I’ll do at some point) to count up all the mayors and council members of all the municipalities in Montgomery County.  That’s where the real savings would come into play.  Fire all the duplicate city councils and mayors and just have one. But that’s wishful thinking.

Civil Servants Are People, Too
Civil Servants Are People, Too

David L, on that last point I agree completely.
Don’t forget the school boards, too.
We need to regionalize our local governments.  Now.