Commission recommends reduction in elected officials’ wages

TAYLOR – Following the recommendation of Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand, the commission responsible for setting salaries of Taylor’s elected officials has proposed reducing wages across the board.

The Local Officers Compensation Commission voted Monday night to reduce the mayor’s wages by 15 percent, the City Council members’ wages by 10 percent and the city clerk and treasurer’s salaries by 5 percent.

The council has 30 days to receive and file the recommendations – meaning they would take effect on Jan. 1, 2010 – or reject them. If the suggestions remain intact, the new reduced salaries would continue through Dec. 31, 2011.

Lamarand, who was elected the city’s full-time mayor in November, said it was necessary to reduce the salaries of elected officials to get them in line with neighboring communities and municipalities of similar size, population and taxable value.

In addition, the mayor said that reducing elected officials’ wages must be done to battle a structural deficit comprising a shortfall in the current fiscal year, which includes a reduction of $1.1 million in state revenue sharing, plus another estimated drop of $6 million in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2010.

“If we require getting costs under control, it starts with me,” Lamarand said. “We can’t be saying one thing and doing another. We’re leading by example.”

The current established mayoral salary set by the commission is $102,151. A 15 percent reduction would bring it to $86,828. The last time a Taylor mayor’s salary was near that level was in 2000, when it was $88,652.

Council members earn $13,686 annually, and their wages would drop to $12,317 with the 10 percent decrease. The chairwoman of the council, who currently receives $16,306, would see a reduction to $14,675. The chairwoman pro tempore gets $14,341; her revised salary would be $12,906.

Taylor’s other two full-time elected officials, the city clerk and treasurer, each earn $68,003 a year. Their salaries would be reduced to $64,602, based on a 5 percent cut.

During his campaign for mayor, Lamarand promised to reduce his salary if elected. To support his recommendations, he presented documentation from both the Michigan Municipal League and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. He said the data shows that the reductions would be in line with salaries earned by some other elected officials in similarly-sized communities.

Lamarand said he has met with city employee union leaders to share his concerns about budgetary constraints. The mayor told them the administration would be leading by example.

He noted that the two administrators he has hired since taking office have salaries 20 and 13 percent lower, respectively, than their predecessors, and that some of the management positions he has eliminated carried annual salaries of $96,000.

“I have concern for the city,” Lamarand said. “We need to do as much as we can in the next six months. We’ll need to do more than that during the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2010.

“And we’ll probably need to more than that in the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2011. We will spend only what we have.”

As a council member in 2005, Lamarand recommended that all elected officials take a 10 percent wage cut. The commission did not act on that request, but did not give raises to elected officials, either.

On Monday, City Council Chairwoman Cheryl Burke supported the mayor’s recommendation that council salaries be reduced. She expects an audit report by Plante & Moran to confirm the need to make cuts and said it was important for the city’s elected officials to show the way.

“I don’t know how we can lead without leading by example,” Burke said.

During the meeting, commissioners reviewed information showing that Taylor’s clerk and treasurer salaries already were less than municipalities of equal size. At that point, City Clerk Mary Ann Rilley said “it would only be fair” for her position to take a reduction as well.

Debbie Knight, assistant director of the Human Resources Department, confirmed that without reductions the city faces further elimination of personnel or programs.

All of the commissioners present at Monday’s meeting voted in favor of the reductions. They include Chairman Jerry Ziemba, who has served since 1993, Gary Johnson (1997), Diana Chavez (1999), Gwen Hicks-Bishop (1999), Nick Waselewski (2008) and Keith Brown (2009). The commission meets once every two years to discuss elected officials’ wages.

“It was a difficult decision that had to be made,” Ziemba said, “but with the state of the economy, and specifically the city of Taylor’s revenue shortfall, we had to make a decision to start cutting salaries for the elected officials.”