Debate stirs at council meeting over village employees’ wage increases

By Megan Kelley
Staff Writer
LAKE ORION — The Lake Orion Village Council approved salary and wage increases for village employees by a vote of 5-2, with Councilmembers Nancy Moshier and Michael Lamb casting the two dissenting votes.
During the council meeting on Monday, village Manager Darwin McClary recommended the council approve a wage and salary increase of seven percent for administrative officer and non-union positions.
According to McClary, the salary adjustments “reflect a three percent annual increase in minimum and maximum salaries and wages for each year since 2015-16, the last time a comprehensive wage and salary range schedule was reviewed and adopted.”
Moshier and Lamb both had concerns about the wage increase with Moshier’s concern lying with the amount of the increase, and Lamb specifically asking how the village got to the seven percent number for wage increase when village taxes are only going up five percent.
“On my tax bill, there was a five percent increase in my assessment because of inflation. So, the village is going to get five percent more from inflation, like the rest of the state, and we’re paying the village people seven percent. So, it’s going to decrease our available funds. We’re not actually getting more money so this is going to reduce the available money in the village,” Lamb said. “I’m still thinking five percent would have been appropriate.”
Overall, the increases are expected to cost the village around $46,140.
McClary responded to Lamb by stating that inflation from the year prior was 7.9 percent, and that a seven percent increase now still does not make up for the total inflation over the years.
Additionally, by state law, the village cannot increase taxes by more than five percent, McClary said.
Lamb noted that the seven percent increase would also include the village manager position, a position that has been filled by McClary for less than a year.
According to McClary, the reason for the increase is not just to make employees “whole”, but also to remain competitive in the public sector when it comes to attracting and keeping high- quality employees. He added that there are a number of positions they are struggling to fill, including positions in the Lake Orion Police Department.
Despite concerns, other members of council, including President Jerry Narsh, President Pro Tem Teresa Rutt and Councilmember Ken Van Portfliet, agreed that the increase in salary ranges were consistent with other communities of similar size and taxable values.
“When you get into this industry and compare apples to apples, it may sound high. But when you look at the wage package that you’re competing for, everybody is trying to compete and not a lot of people want to come into the public sector anymore, and that’s sad because we get to work in great communities,” Narsh said. “Seven percent seemed to be the number this year through my conversations throughout Oakland County.
Rutt added that she did not want to fall into the trap of “If I don’t get that, then someone else shouldn’t.”
“We do have some of the best workers around and I really appreciate our employees,” Rutt said. “If we have the ability to provide fair compensation to our employees, that will retain talent and keep talent, I think we need to do that. I think that is something that is good and is right.”

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