It took three readings, and created a bit of dissension among council, but the city of Findlay will once again divide the service-safety director position into two jobs.
The change appears to be a good one that should benefit the city, but some questions remain about job duties and how much the restructuring may cost down the road.
Mayor Lydia Mihalik stated when the proposal surfaced last month that the split could end up saving the city. It could, at least in the short run.
Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer has held the combined position since 2012, but wanted less workload so he could offer private engineering consulting services.
Splitting the jobs won’t add to the payroll if Schmelzer, who will remain as safety director, and Brian Thomas, now the city engineer, who will become service director, are paid near the middle range of the salary schedule of each job.
Schmelzer is now making about $149,000, near the upper end of the salary scale for the combined position.
Under the wage scale, the director of public service can be paid between $68,276 and $106,080, and the director of safety between $59,878 and $99,999.
The proposal calls for Schmelzer to make about $75,000 as safety director and Thomas about $99,000 as service director.
While that combined figure tops what Schmelzer is earning now, savings would come as Thomas is expected to continue to serve as the city engineer, a position that pays about $94,000.
He would make $5,000 more for the additional duties of service director.
Councilwoman Holly Frische, R-1, has consistently challenged the ordinance to split the jobs, not because she opposed the change, but because she believes council should have more information about the new job duties and salary rates.
Frische has noted the city added a human resource position, which pays $79,000 annually, several years ago. Human resource duties previously had been a function of the service and safety directors.
The current salary ranges were established upon approval by council several years ago, but the decision on what level to set pay within the range is up to city administrators.
Dividing the service and safety positions may allow the city to best utilize manpower. Having Thomas in charge of the engineering and service functions appears to be a good move, since service duties can include public works, including water and sewer departments.
It remains to be seen, however, if additional staffing will be needed in the engineer’s office with Thomas doing double-duty as service director/engineer.
Mayor Mihalik should make a clear accounting of the new job responsibilities and wage changes to council, in order to avoid the backlash the administration got when Schmelzer was granted a substantial pay raise at the end of 2015.
Although council members may have limited reach when it comes to administrators’ pay, they must maintain their watchdog role over city government.
The public has the right to know what the job requirements are for administrators and what they’re getting for their tax dollars.
Frische’s continuing concern that council is too often a rubber stamp for the administration is legitimate. Other council members must work as hard to make sure the necessary checks and balances are preserved.
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