LIMA — The person who voters select in November to be Lima’s new mayor will inherit David Berger’s nearly $126,000 salary — one that took Berger 32 years to earn and is as much as $38,000 higher than mayoral salaries in some similar-sized Ohio cities.
As part of The Lima News’ 28th annual public salary study, the newspaper looked at four similar-sized cities to compare salaries paid to mayors, police chiefs, fire chiefs and council members. The cities were selected using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, which ranked Ohio’s 1,213 cities by population. A public information request was then made to officials from those four cities, who didn’t hesitate to comply.
Lima was found to pay a higher wage in every category.
The findings and city population rankings:
• No. 35 Lima
Mayor salary: $125,811
Police chief: $112,735
Fire chief: $99,580
City council: $12,875
• No. 22 Mansfield
Mayor salary: $86,481
Police chief: $97,056
Fire chief: $95,031
City council: $7,988
• No. 27 Findlay
Mayor salary: $81,352
Police chief: $103,334
Fire chief: $97,178
City council: $7,616
• No. 33 Warren
Mayor salary: $87,788
Police chief: $90,870
Fire chief: $90,870
City council: $11,110
• No. 37 Marion
Mayor salary: $69,900
Police chief: $118,368, which includes longevity payouts.
Fire chief: $101,105
City council: $7,300
New Lima mayor
While the Lima mayoral salary is already significantly higher than the comparable-sized cities above, the difference in pay could grow.
“The new mayor’s salary will be whatever the current mayor leaves at, plus whatever the cost of living increase will be. We won’t know that number until November because we use the October number to determine the increase,” said Lima City Auditor Randall Bartels.
Lima City Law Director Tony Geiger said it is common practice for new government employees to assume the rate of pay of the person whose job they are taking.
“I don’t know of any elected position, from federal to local, where the new person starts at anything different than the old person,” Geiger said.
In Findlay, however, the mayor’s salary is set by an ad-hoc committee chaired by one of the city council members and composed of an outside human resource professional, the city law director, the city human resource director and two other city council members, said Don Essex, the city’s human resource director.
That was last done prior to Christina Muryn winning the Findlay mayoral election in 2019 and taking office in 2020.
“A salary review was conducted, and the committee made recommendations based on extensive research. An ordinance was voted on and approved by council. This was last done at the end of 2018 and sets the mayoral salary for 2020-2023” at $81,352, Essex said.
Greg Lawson, a research fellow for The Buckeye Institute, an independent free-market think tank, said the system used by Findlay works well as long as the pay rate is established in a non-election year.
“Every city establishes pay a little bit differently under home rule, but typically the person who is succeeding an outgoing mayor takes over at the current pay level,” Lawson said. “What Findlay is doing raises the more interesting question, which is, what can be done to modify a salary if it is believed to be too high or too low.”