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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 06/25/14
Trustees debating alterations to village government
by CHRIS GRAYChanges to Romeo's governmental structure are still up for debate, though compensation for newly-elected officials has been put to rest.
Observer Staff Writer
The Village of Romeo Board of Trustees voted 4-2 to changing the salaries and benefits of the clerk, treasurer and administrator. The changes will take effect when new officials fill the positions following the November election.
Village President Mike Lee and Trustee Ron Rossell cast the dissenting votes at the June 16 meeting.
The changes were made as part of the board's discussions to modify the three positions due to Village Clerk Marian McLaughlin, who is appointed as administrator, and Village Treasurer Melinda Rossell retiring once their terms expire.
After trustees met with representatives from the Municipal Employees' Retirement System (MERS), ideas were provided on how to scale back on costs for new hires.
Trustee Christine Malzahn said using the information, she examined the salaries approved in the 2014-15 budget and came up with new figures.
She suggested the clerk's annual salary would go from $50,684 to $40,000. Currently, the clerk position costs a total of $89,250 when including benefits and pension.
The treasurer's compensation is around $65,000, $30,500 of which is the salary. Malzahn suggested a change to $28,000 for the salary.
"It seems a little lop-sided . . . that a newly-elected position would have the learning curve shouldn't necessarily come in at the same starting rate that somebody who's been there for 25 or 28 (years)," she said.
Malzahn said the positions would now have a 401(k) plan with 5 percent match and healthcare benefits. The combined savings from the adjustments were calculated at $76,000.
The administrator position would then gain increases from the savings realized from the adjustments, increasing it from $19,000 a year.
"There is room to move that around," she said.
Lee said he wanted the opportunity for the board to review the proposal before taking a vote on it. He suggested waiting until the July 21 meeting to decide.
"Getting all that information that you presented and not have time for us to actually think about that scenario would really be a bad way to go," he said.
With a cut off date to submit or withdraw from the election set for July 22, trustees said they needed to have the compensation information available to the public as soon as possible.
Village Attorney Mark Clark said the compensation could legally be changed after July 22, but this wouldn't be fair to those running for the positions.
Last month, trustees examined data from the Southeast Michigan Council of Government (SEMCOG), which showed that the average wage for clerks is $45,818, $81,851 for administrator and $46,812 for treasurers.
SEMCOG also showed data on how other municipalities have their operations structured. Out of 15 communities, 11 appoint a village manager.
Both Trustee Bob Hart and Malzahn hinted at a potential change in government structure to a village manager, but didn't elaborate on whether this would be presented as an option.
Malzahn did say, though, that some of the duties the clerk handles could be placed on the administrator when using job descriptions from the general village charter.
Hart agreed, saying roles and responsibilities like the cemetery sexton could fall onto the administrator or a manager as a separate position.
"We've kind of meandered and this is how we've ended up, but if you look at this structure, it really doesn't make sense" he said.
Trustee Rossell said he could agree on the salary and benefit changes, but wanted to be sure they were fair enough to attract good candidates.
"I'm not real keen on the structure change, but I'm 100 percent for changing the retirement program," he said. "We've got to watch it, we want qualified people to run."
Prior to the vote, anyone on the board running for clerk or treasurer was asked to acknowledge their candidacy. Lee was the only one, saying he is running for clerk.
Outside of the meeting, McLaughlin said she understood the need to re-examine village operations with her retirement, but is concerned there will not be any public input on switching to a village manager.
"The public should have a voice in the change of government format," she said.