A new tiered pay system for Wellington police, approved by village council in December, could soon be frozen until further notice.
Council approved a one percent annual wage increase for all village employees at its most recent meeting, including police officers under the tiered pay system.
However, an April 30 vote is likely to halt any progression in tiers as officials wrestle with the question of fairness.
“In order to treat all employees fairly and equitably, in my opinion we need to freeze the system until we can address raises and annual increases on a more uniform basis,” said village manager Steve Dupee. “Once the results from our wage study are complete, we’ll go back and look at the tiered plan.”
The village has hired Akron-based Clemans Nelson & Associates at a cost of $7,800 to $9,800 to conduct a study of wages in Wellington and the logistics of a possible village-wide tiered system.
Police tiered pay costs roughly $25,000 annually but it’s unclear how much a similar system for all employees would cost, said Dupee.
The price tag itself is not the motivator in freezing pay, he said. Rather, he believes Wellington shouldn’t give tiered pay to any department unless it can do the same for all workers.
If passed, the freeze would go into effect May 1.
Dupee and council members said police tiered pay could possibly be unfrozen later this year, with councilman William Bogan saying he would only vote for the freeze if a timeline to unfreeze is also laid out.
Councilman Guy Wells voted against the freeze but was overruled by votes of approval from Gene Hartman and Keith Rowland.
“We’re going to have to see how the year goes as far as expenses and tax collection,” Dupee said. “We’ll ultimately make the best decision for the village and one that makes sure we’re being fiscally responsible with our general fund.”
Police chief Tim Barfield said five Wellington officers would be due for a raise under tiered pay between September and December.
“I’m going to have to tell these people they’re not getting a raise,” he said. “I don’t like it, but I get it. I’m prepared to rally my troops but I hope this isn’t a freeze for the next five years. If doing this helps us eventually get a new police station and increase staff, I’m willing to get behind it.”
Utilities superintendents Mark Rosemark, Bob Brasee, and Dave Bealer voiced displeasure over the move.
A one-percent increase just doesn’t cut it, Brasee said. His department has lost plenty of workers to the point where he’s starting to seek out new hires without families because they can afford to live on less, he told council.
Cost of living and merit raises don’t do much to help employees near the bottom of the scale, said Bealer — it actually creates more pay disparity. At the same time, they do work atypical of their positions in other communities, like building a new electric substation.
Rosemark said village employees are responsible for the operation success of the village, and council hasn’t provided sufficient incentives for employee retention.
He said workers can takes jobs elsewhere that pay more for less work.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.