Council pay

Councilman Dick Demlow, left, addresses fellow council member Forest Blakeman during Tuesday’s meeting of council. Demlow introduced an ordinance to cut council’s annual salary from $2,400 to $1,500. Blakeman was one who voted “no” as it failed by a 4-3 count.

Waverly Village Council members, this week, said "no" to trimming their own salaries in the midst of a financial crunch - at least for now.

An ordinance, introduced by councilman Dick Demlow, to cut council's annual pay from $2,400 to $1,500 failed by a 4-3 vote. The move comes at a time in which the village's general fund is depleting and large cuts seem to be inevitable.

"Council has an obligation to be conscious of the budget problems, and do its part," said Demlow, who along with Joyce Thompson and Steve Fisher, voted to cut their salaries.

Some took exception with Demlow's plan, including council president Greg Kempton, Tom Patterson, Bret Bevens and Forest Blakeman, who all said "no" to the cuts.

Kempton took issue with the timing of the move, with a new member of council coming on board in January, and also with how it would be perceived by the public.

"I don't like cutting a guy, who ran for office under one salary, and then he gets here and finds out the last thing we did at the end of the year was cut his pay," Kempton said, referring to councilman-elect Brian Blakeman, who will take over Fisher's seat in less than a month.

On that same note, councilman Bevens added he would rather see the ordinance go through three readings so that the incoming councilman could have at least voted on it himself.

Kempton also said that he fears the public would view the move as "a cowardly way out for council."

"(By cutting our salaries) we can say we've done something ... and we're working on it, rather than take the time to meet with the department heads," he explained.

"I guarantee you, there are a lot of people that would rather see us toughen up and take the time to do this as part of the bigger picture."

Forest Blakeman said cutting council's pay, in this situation, was simply unfair.

"I think it's wrong to cut our pay, and not cut the mayor's and auditor's pay too," he stated. "When we were given this raise, at the same time, the auditor and mayor were given a $12,000 raise; they got $1,000 a month and we got $100 a month.

Blakeman said the village could save as much as $68,000 per year by cutting the raises given to the mayor and auditor, as well as employees in the mayor's office and tax office, and then laying off some of the village's part-timers.

"If we agree to cut the rest of the salaries, I'll go along with it. Until then, I won't - it is not fair to everyone here," Blakeman said.

Demlow agreed that more action will need to be taken in order to to effectively deal with the village's financial woes, but defended the ordinance by saying it was a good first step to take.

"I would be ashamed of council if this was the last thing we were to do in this situation," Demlow said. This is a step that I think council needs to take, and then we can move forward and ask department heads and others to do their part.

"At least we will have taken a step forward and shown that we're willing to take a cut, at the same time we're asking them to make sacrifices."

Kempton said the issue of council's pay will likely be revisited in the future as part of a more comprehensive financial plan.

Last month council passed a $7.4 million temporary budget for 2012, but the village's financial experts say it will need to endure major cuts. Auditor Harvey Whaley had already recommended trimming $334,000 off that $7.4 figure. In the meantime, department heads have been asked to be mindful of their spending until a permanent budget can be passed.

Income tax receipts are down by around $159,000 from this time a year ago. The village's general fund currently stands at $275,370; by comparison, Waverly was able to carry over $905,000 from that fund in 2010.

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