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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10 Responses

  1. truddick March 18, 2011 / 9:00 am
    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?)
  2. John Ise March 18, 2011 / 1:32 pm
    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 first was called “Charter Agencies:” new management flexibilities for six agencies that volunteered to accept lower appropriations and greater performance accountability, in return for the budget, personnel, procurement, and other flexibilities they needed to deliver better results.  This was so successful–$92 million in savings over the first three years, while results improved dramatically—that the governor won the prestigious Innovation in American Government Award from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for this concept.
    The second was a reinvention of the Child Welfare system, to produce better results for $10 million less per year.  This was a qualified success: results improved dramatically, exceeding targets, but savings were less than $10 million a year in subsequent years.
    The third was a new deal between state and local governments.  Local governments would get less money in return for new rules that let them operate more efficiently.  In Iowa, state government writes the rules, and state legislators have historically distrusted local officials; hence they have hemmed them in with tight restrictions over what is permissible and what is not.  After a year of work and dozens of community forums to develop new rules, the legislature balked on this one.  The budget cuts went through, but not the reforms.  Local officials were justifiably furious. 
    The lessons: It’s hard to make an omelet without breaking eggs, and not every good idea will come to fruition.  Still, Iowa saved $63.5 million.
    Recently Redmond, Washington, a city of 50,000 that is home to Microsoft, took a similar step.  They call it their “Efficiency Challenge,” and it will require them to come up with reforms that will save at least $1.6 million over a biennium.
    2. Budget for Outcomes, not Costs
    A second promising idea is to build your budget around results, not last year’s costs plus inflation.  It’s called Budgeting for Outcomes, and Iowa, Washington, Michigan, Dallas, and a dozen other cities, counties, and school districts have used it.
    Start by deciding how much money you’ll have to spend next year, or next biennium.  Then work with citizens to define the 5-10 results most important to them: a better economy, better schools, better health, better safety, better mobility, a cleaner environment, and so on.  Decide how much each of these outcomes is worth: divide your money between them.
    For each finite pot of money, assign a team of strategic thinkers who understand the policy arena but don’t have an axe to grind or a budget to protect.  Ask them to do the research necessary to figure out what factors most affect the outcome—and then what strategies your city, county, school district or state should pursue.
    Put all that information into a new set of budget instructions, called a Request for Results.  Ask your programs and agencies to make their best offers: tell you what programs they can deliver, at what cost, with what results.  Have your teams rank their offers from most cost-effective to least cost-effective, send the rankings back out, and ask for better offers.  Your program managers will wake up when they see their programs ranked low and scour the globe for best practices: new ways to produce better results for less money.
    Rank the new offers, start buying from the top, and draw a line when the money runs out.  Send those rankings to the executive, who will use them to put together his or her budget.  Adjustments to reality are always necessary: for instance, some low-ranked programs are mandated by the courts, or by another government.  But most of the rankings will hold, and your budget will thus propose to fund what contributes the most to results and eliminate what contributes the least.
    When the legislative body holds budget hearings, interest groups will come out of the woodwork to defend the low-ranked programs.  Legislators will ask them: “What program should we move below the line to accommodate your program, and what evidence do you have that shows your program produces better results?”  And that’s exactly the debate you want to have at budget time.
    Every citizen will be able to understand the budget, because it can be summarized in one page per result: a list of programs to be funded, a line, and below that, a list of programs you can no longer afford, because they don’t produce as much value.
    3.  Use New Partnerships to Engage all the Resources in Your Community
    The impact of the recession on communities will be severe, as unemployment rises and foreclosures multiply.  Governments will face an unprecedented need to engage all the resources in their communities: not-for-profit organizations, neighborhood organizations, businesses, unions — even other levels of government.  What if counties and cities began creating shared services, even public enterprises that competed for business in other cities and counties?  What if public leaders decided their most valuable role was “steering” the community?  Deputized by voters, elected officials would determine overall direction—often with direct input from the people—then convene all the best “rowers” available. 
    Government is not the only player out there that cares about better health, for example.  Many other people and organizations care about it: non-profits like the American Cancer Society, foundations, employers who want to pay less for health insurance, schools that know healthy kids learn better, and every person who wants to feel better, do more, live longer, and pay less for “sick care.”  Even more have an interest in contributing to solutions: recreational sports leagues, service clubs, churches, unions, youth groups, for-profit companies that sell products and services that contribute to better health, and more. 
    Recognizing all that, what if governments saw their budget money not as all the money available, but as initial matching funds on which to build a much larger effort to create value?  What if government convened these players and led an exploration of what we could all do together to create better health outcomes?  Each of these players brings unique talent, knowledge, and skills—and, in some cases, considerable financial resources.  Together, this network of players could design and put into motion a web of interconnected strategies and actions to maximize health.
    Not that many of these players don’t already communicate with each other and coordinate some activities.  But what if government helped them take collaboration to the next level?  The game would shift from balancing government budgets to building networks and orchestrating strategies that produce real value.
    4. Co-Produce With Your Communities
    Sometimes the best thing government can do is help communities help themselves.  This takes many forms: “neighborhood watch” groups working with community policing; neighborhood organizations maintaining parks; tenant organizations managing public housing; parents’ groups organizing recreation programs; voluntary groups organizing recycling programs.  People take better care of their neighborhoods when they feel like they have more control.  Tacoma, Washington, has made co-production one of its major strategies for increasing safety, for example.  San Francisco uses Community Boards, with voluntary mediators, to resolve more cases than the San Francisco Municipal Court.  Vermont uses Community Reparative Boards to develop “reparative contracts” with people who have been convicted of low-level crimes, so justice can be done and harm to the community repaired without sending offenders to jail.
    5. Harness the Power of Competition
    Necessity is the mother of invention, and competition is a force that creates necessity.  If public employees know their program has to compete to survive, they will embrace innovation as a way of life.  This has been proven thousands of times in recent decades, whether through managed competition (competitive bidding in which public agencies get to bid against private vendors), enterprise management (in which internal support services like print shops and fleet maintenance shops become competitive enterprises, selling their services to their customers, who are free to go elsewhere), or new wrinkles such as San Diego County’s “Bid to Goal” approach (in which public agencies have to cut their costs to meet market prices, without actually going through a bidding process).
    6.  Exchange Flexibilities for Budget Reductions
    Agencies and departments regularly complain about the red tape and bureaucracy that frustrate their ability to manage and perform.  Charter Agencies pioneer a new, bureaucracy-busting deal. Agencies wishing to be chartered commit to producing measurable results – and improvements in those results – and agree to lower operating expenses.  In return, the Charter Agencies are freed from red tape by being given waivers to certain rules, as well as special authorities and incentives. 
    To jump start productivity-enhancing and money-saving projects the Charter Agencies could not otherwise fund, some of the money that comes from the lowered operating expenses, or other sources, can go into an Innovations Fund for one time investments in change.
    The State of Iowa implemented “Charter Agencies” in 2003.  The initiative saved the taxpayers $20 million a year for the first two years and $50 million in the third year, while improving results.  It won a Harvard Innovations in American Government Award in 2005 and also the Council of State Governments’ Innovation Award.
    7. Limit the Cost of Mistrust
    Another promising avenue is to eliminate some of the costs of mistrust that plague your organization.  Twenty percent of what you spend is probably designed to control the other 80 percent: to make sure nothing is stolen, nothing illegal is done, and every penny of every line item is spent according to the rules.  That’s important, but it’s expensive.  Our government bureaucracies were built on the assumption that most of us will lie, cheat, and steal, if given the opportunity.
    In today’s world, a lot of these rules are outdated, or there are better and cheaper alternatives to enforcement.  Information technology allows us to short-circuit cumbersome procurement and personnel procedures and to track spending much more effectively.   If you review all your spending on mistrust, you’ll find multiple opportunities to save.  One of our clients found that seven signatures were required to approve a travel request.  Since everyone who signed knew that six others would review the request, all of them just signed and passed it on. Hence when they cut the number of signatures required to one, the number of approvals actually fell. 
    Salt Lake County, in Utah, and San Jose, California, are both using “Bureaucracy Busting” strategies to eliminate rules that get in the way of performance.  A team in San Jose has collected lists of rules that people feel have outlived their usefulness.  A two-day WorkOut focused on streamlining procurement, particularly the Request for Proposals process.   Many steps were eliminated from the process, and a quicker process was developed for small contracts.
    8. Reduce Your Subsidies
    Subsidies come in all forms: tax credits or abatements, fees and charges that are below the cost of a service, support for institutions used by people of all incomes. These subsidies are often not targeted on those who truly need them. (Nor are they targeted on results.)  By examining subsidies, you can make conscious decisions about who should be subsidized and who should pay more.  In tough times, perhaps you can’t afford to subsidize upper-middle-class golfers or boaters.  Perhaps you could start charging most people for recreation programs but allowing low-income people to participate for free.  When Sunnyvale, California, decided to phase out taxpayer support for recreational programs, it turned the recreation department into a public enterprise.  Freed from bureaucratic controls, the new Leisure Services enterprise grew rapidly, by increasing its base of paying customers.  By listening to its customers, inventing new programs, adapting schedules to meet customers’ needs, and using smart pricing, it captured ever more of residents’ recreation dollars.
    9. Empower Your Employees
    Most employees know how to save money.  They see waste all around them. But no one ever asks for their input, so they keep their mouths shut.  Many organizations have dramatically improved their productivity by training their employees in process improvement and empowering them to make changes.  We recently met with a self-managed road marking crew in San Jose, California—the people who paint the stripes and put the safety dots on the streets and highways.  The city trained them to analyze the cost of everything they did, while also helping them develop the skills to work in a team.  In a few short years, they tripled their productivity.  That translated into millions of dollars the city could spend on other priorities.
    In Conclusion
    These are simplified explanations of just a few possible strategies.  But you get the idea.  Let’s use this crisis to break the mold.  Let’s start rethinking how we run our public institutions, so we can deliver the results citizens want at a price they’re willing to pay. The gleam through the dark clouds is not more government or less government but better government—government designed for the 21st century.
    How we weather this storm may define our generation in public service.  But success will require leaders who have the courage to lead.  It will require employees who are encouraged and supported to use their valuable knowledge to continuously improve their operations.  It will require executives and legislators willing to invest their first dollars in change, even when they are cutting budgets.  And it will require union leaders willing to partner with management to shape innovative changes that improve services, save money, and improve working conditions for employees. 
    Change is frightening.  Change creates resistance.  But at this point, the status quo is even more frightening.  If we refuse to change, the future looks disturbingly like a downward spiral, in which we deliver results citizens don’t like at a price they’re not willing to pay.

  3. DRR March 18, 2011 / 2:24 pm
    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.
  4. Civil Servants Are People, Too March 20, 2011 / 1:56 pm
    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.
  5. David Lauri March 20, 2011 / 4:01 pm
    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?!?!
  6. David Esrati March 20, 2011 / 4:59 pm

    @CSAPT  and you say:

    I imagine the sheer volume of phone calls and meetings is overwhelming for a larger city.

    The charter, “the law of the land” with it’s 500 signature requirement- only requires the city commissioners to attend ONE meeting a week. They are supposed to serve as a “Board of directors”- as to phone calls- that’s what the “Clerk of the Commission” is supposed to do. Ever heard of memos? Or CRM systems?

    The reality is- our Commission thinks of itself as too important- and our City Manager isn’t as prominent as he should be.

    Cut the fat- and get lean- and, just maybe, things will get done.

  7. Civil Servants Are People, Too March 21, 2011 / 12:41 am
    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.
  8. David Lauri March 21, 2011 / 8:41 pm
    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.
  9. Civil Servants Are People, Too March 21, 2011 / 11:44 pm
    David L, on that last point I agree completely.
    Don’t forget the school boards, too.
    We need to regionalize our local governments.  Now.

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