MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - There was a heated debate at the March 21 Township Board meeting about a shift in wages for the Township Board and other officials.
The Local Officials' Compensation Commission consists of five members that meet biannually to determine the salaries of elected officials- Supervisor, Clerk, Treasurer, Trustees and Park Commissioners.
The Commission recommended that the officials receive a 2 percent salary increase this year as they have done in previous years.
Trustee Dan Opsommer spoke first about the topic, making a motion to "respectfully decline" their recommendation of an increase.
Five votes were needed from the Board to approve any motion on the subject.
"Current and future employees have made sacrifices. I respectfully decline this recommendation because I don't think due consideration was made to residents especially since a public safety mileage was just approved in this same meeting," Opsommer said.
Other Board members agreed.
"I don't agree with asking voters to make a sacrifice and voting for a raise," said Trustee Phil Deschaine. "The Township is in crisis. In same meeting we all voted for mileage increase because it necessary. As public officials lets make a statement. If we don’t deal with pension liability we will be laying off a lot of people. Keep salaries as they are. And let's show residents we are serious about this issue."
However, all of the Board members were not on the same page.
"This Board misperceives and underestimates intelligence of our citizens," said Clerk Brett Dreyfus. "We are not going bankrupt and we are not going in the red. Bringing up pension liability is ridiculous. The Township budget is excellent with a surplus of $6 million. We'll always have issues that deal with expenditures of money we can always talk about union contracts and asking voters to approve mileage. This is political agenda not based on rational decision, there's no statement to make."
Dreyfus also said that the township's staff was underpaid in comparison of other municipalities of the same size. And that trustees who did not work for the township full-time would not be greatly affected by this and just wanted to make a political statement.
Supervisor Ron Stayka agreed that many positions were underpaid however, he thought the Board should make a sacrifice as they've asked citizens to do.
Ultimately, Opsommer's original motion to decline the recommendation of the raise was passed to a 5-1 vote.