Vermilion City Council, on the heels of giving its clerk a raise, is being asked by the administration to give clerks in the building, utilities and finance departments a raise, as well as the police chief’s administrative assistant. But some raises, some as much as 30 percent, appear to be a little steep. Forthofer said in light of the current job market, the raises are needed to retain staff and show appreciation for service to the city, and job classifications are lower than neighboring cities. Council voted 4-2 to move forward with the legislation, which will likely have more heated discussion in front of it.

                Forthofer said over the past years due to the city’s former financial woes, it has not kept up with salaries in key positions. “This has left us behind.” Compound that, he said, right now it is an employee’s job market, and if the city loses people, it will have a difficult time replacing them at the current salary levels it has. He distributed pay structures for neighboring communities that addressed the building, utilities, and finance departments. In the Building and Utilities Department, to be comparable, Forthofer presented a $2.50/hr raise. In the Finance Department, a $5/hour raise is proposed. The total cost to the city would be $56,000 annually, and recommended legislation be prepared.

                Council President Steve Herron, said, “Believe me, you’re 100 percent correct…the City of Vermilion is in the same situation as any other hiring agency. It has to make decisions based on the market…we have an obligation to keep these salaries competitive.” Herron felt it was best to bring it up to the next council, of which he will be a part. He said the reason for this is a couple of years ago, this was done, the next council came in, and votes changed, and it was erased.

                Holovacs said he and two others would be gone, so he agreed, but one thing he’d like to see done is the total compensation package. “You just can’t compare wages.” He said vacation, hospitalization, longevity, “When you put that all together, what is the cost per employee?”

                Council-at-Large Monica Stark said she was glad the administration brought this back, as council asked to have some of the salaries revised a bit. “I agree – we need to pay our employees what they’re worth because we want to keep our employees.” Councilwoman Barb Brady said she was confused as these positions have a “me, too” agreement as what Local 860 gets in raises, these positions get as raises. “I can’t agree that we do large increases and the me, too. I think we need to pick.” She said either they go under the union agreement or raises based on something else.

                Forthofer said he understands Herron’s suggestion and can make a decision, and the next council can make a different decision. He said council has made decisions on salary not worrying about the next council, referring to the recent raise it gave its clerk. Herron said it was different than others because it involves multiple people. Herron said council has gone down this road before, giving raises and taking them away. “All it did was create a big problem at city hall because those benefits went away.” He felt the city could wait seven weeks.

                Forthofer said Chrystal Deverick, who is administrative assistant to VPD Chief Hartung, has also fallen off. Brady said one of the things that is problematic is longevity, as the city wants to keep good employees. She said the chart stops. She said some in the proposed structure do not have many years in, yet their wages are being pushed up to those with 20 years. “That doesn’t make sense to me.” Brady said she is coming from the private sector. Brady said these jobs are civil service, and people who made the same amount of money are being divided and now one department is making more than another. Forthofer said some job classifications carry more risk than others. Brady said they were hired in at the same rate, same classification. Herron said normally he would agree, but the administration is fulfilling its job to keep the jobs competitive.

                Holovacs said Vermilion still has one of the best hospitalization packages, and does not know if other communities have longevity. He said some older staff have eight weeks of vacation. “That’s a heck of a benefit.” Law Director Susan Anderson said in representing multiple municipalities and schools, while benefits are nice, they are looking at base wages. “By and large, all insurance packages in municipalities are pretty generous.” She said packages for all cities are pretty similar.

                During audience participation, Deverick said she has the same benefits package as Clerk of Council Gwen Fisher. “Why is hers okay,” asked Deverick of Fisher’s recent wage increase. “Because she works for council,” said Holovacs. Deverick said she didn’t understand how council could treat one employee one way and another a different way. “I think it’s extremely unfair, and borderline ignorant.”

                Elberta resident Michael DiCarlo said, “I think that some of our public employees forget that it is a privilege to serve the public. And when they make demands, perhaps they should consider they are actually servicing the public instead of serving them.”

                Finance employee Teresa Mosley said she was hired in 2008 in accounts payable finance clerk. She said the gap exists in pay “because me too isn’t exactly me too.” She said Local 860 gets a step increase every six months for three years as a union employee. She said administrative employees get a 90-day and 180-day. She said she didn’t get that. If nothing was negotiated, she got nothing. “My longevity was frozen at nothing.” She said administrative clerks do not get the same increases as Local 860, and that starts at the hiring process. She said in 3 ½ years, Local 860 is at the top of its scale. Mosley said she supports each and every one of her coworkers. Holovacs apologized and asked that Mosley stay, as he said these salaries should be spelled out in an ordinance and taken care of at the beginning before going up. “You should have something in writing that shows any new employee what you’re getting, job description of what they do, it should be all written out.”  Holovacs said a lot of people don’t know what their job is. “I’ve heard that for quite a few years.” Mosley said the job evolves, especially due to the pandemic.

                Forthofer said no compensation package is going to make up the gap and council is delaying the inevitable. Brady said to the mayor there is a 30 percent increase in one of the proposed positions for someone who has been with the city for three years. Herron said he is looking back at when a decision was made and was pulled right out. “That’s not what I want to happen.” Council-at-Large Monica Stark asked that it be put on for three readings, giving time for discussion. Building department employee Bridget Triana said she is grateful for the job she has, being close to home and be in the community. “I am all for fairness across the board,” she said. “Taking a test, it was a Civil Service test, we all had to have the same credentials. We all had the same job titles. There’s no doubt we need a pay raise,” she said. “But we all deserve to be fair. We came in with the same application, we took the same Civil Service test…we have the same job description. I just think we need to be fair, and that’s all I’m asking for.”

                Ward 2 council-elect Greg Drew said this wage increase does not seem significant and supported the mayor’s proposal. Building employee Melanie Wood reminded council that with the building inspector leaving, there is a big vacancy within the department. “The clerks will be feeling the extra weight as new people learn the jobs.” Council voted 4-2 with Brady and Holovacs voting against.