LIMA — The figures are eye-opening.
• Twenty-two employees of the City of Lima were paid more than $100,000 in 2020, twice the number of five years ago. Ten others had salaries between $95,000 and $100,000.
• Nearly $2 million of overtime was paid by Lima in a year where a hiring freeze saw the city hit with 48,319 hours of overtime.
• Allen County saw 24 people being paid more than $5,000 in overtime, including three health department employees who earned more than $14,000 each in overtime.
These were among the findings in The Lima News’ 28th annual public salary study, which examined the salaries of local government workers paid in 2020.
It was a year where local governments found themselves dealing with a pandemic, social unrest, violent crime and a national election like no other.
It was a year of overtime.
The staff’s tired
At Allen County Public Health, there were days when the phone never stopped ringing and the work was non-stop. It was felt on the agency’s budget, with seven health department employees earning more than $5,000 in overtime during 2020. Front-line workers Brandon Fischer was paid $20,552 in overtime, Rebecca Brooks $19,641 and Becky Riepenhoff $14,922.
The agency has received some grants to help with the extra expense, health commissioner Kathy Luhn said, but her bigger concern is the welfare of her staff.
“The staff’s tired. We’ve put in a lot of time, a lot of energy,” she said. “It’s been a stressful year.”
The Lima Police Department saw 21 city employees earn more than $20,000 in overtime last year. Tops on the list was Detective Steven Stechschulte, who doubled his salary with a whopping $70,063 in overtime. Factor that into his base pay, and Stechschulte was the highest paid person on the Lima city payroll at $134,931.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said the high numbers in overtime were a reflection of several things:
• The uncertainty of the pandemic, which brought about a hiring freeze. The freeze meant others on staff would need to absorb the workload.
• The social unrest that spread across the country.
• Unexpected employee attrition.
• An increase in violent crime.
“The police department actually found itself in a position where our staffing was much, much shorter than what we had originally planned for the year,” Martin said. “We had to deal with the decrease in staffing, while at the same time dealing with an increase in juvenile crime and violent crime.”
That was underscored by the work done by Stechschulte.
His tireless work was credited as the key to obtaining the first-ever conviction in Allen County of an individual for participating in a criminal gang. For that and other efforts, Stechschulte was presented in January with the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney Association’s Outstanding Peace Officer award for 2020.
“Yeah, you can say the extra dollars are nice for people, but it really is a sacrifice to work all that overtime, not just for the officers, but for their families as well,” Martin said. “Their families have to sacrifice because dad or mom just isn’t around as much as they would like to be.”
Other findings in the salary study:
• Eight members of the Lima Fire Department were paid more than the fire chief.
• Allen County Board of Elections director Kathy Meyer earned $5,179 in overtime.
• The 13 Allen County employees who made more than $100,000 in 2020 were almost double the number of five years ago, when seven people crossed the century mark.