CINCINNATI — Despite a divided vote during Wednesday’s City Council meeting, an ordinance increasing the living wages for city employees passed, 5 in favor, 3 against.
The wage increase plan — proposed and championed by Mayor John Cranley — will increase full-time employee pre-tax earnings to $15 per hour and — much more impactful — will increase wages for part-time employees to $10.10 per hour.
The total impact of the measure is estimated to be a little more than $1 million.
As far as the full-time increases go, the ordinance will only impact eight employees, at the cost of about $25,000 per year, according to a report released by City Manager Harry Black earlier this week during council’s Budget & Finance Committee meeting.
The part-time pay increase — up from $8.25 per hour — will cost the city a more sizeable $488,000 per year.
“The budget is a reflection of our values,” Cranley said during Monday’s committee meeting.
But some on council felt the additional strain on the city budget — already facing a mutli-million dollar shortfall — is unwise.
“It is my opinion that to raise the wage to $15 without clarity on the deficit is financially irresponsible,” said Independent Christopher Smitherman during Wednesday’s meeting.
Smitherman, Republican Charlie Winburn and Charterite Kevin Flynn voted against the ordinance. Republican Amy Murray abstained.
In a statement issued shortly after Wednesday’s vote, Winburn clarified his stance, saying, “I want to be on the record in support of the concept and spirit of a $15 living wage for city employees… However, I believe it is not fiscally responsible…”
Winburn’s dilemma with the ordinance, he said, was the swiftness with which the increase to part-time employees’ wage will occur, like his colleague Smitherman, citing the looming FY 2017 budget shortfall.
He proposed, instead, increasing the part-time wage over the course of the next five years.
Winburn, who chairs the budget committee, additionally opposed the most expensive component of the ordinance, a provision that would require contractors doing city work that amounts to more than 1,500 hours of service to pay their employees at least $15 per hour, as well.
“This provision irresponsibly sends the message that Cincinnati business could be required in the future to increase wages across the board, which would be devastating to job opportunities in the city,” Winburn said.
Black estimated this would cost the city as much as $690,000 annually.
The ordinance’s passage will almost certainly mean the city administration will have to look for other programs or staffing to cut, Black said.
“The Living Wage ordinance would increase the budget gap, thereby requiring that we identify additional existing City programs to be eliminated or reduce staff and contractual services to have a structurally balanced budget for the next fiscal year and in the future,” Black wrote in his report.
Still, there were others on council who felt the ordinance did not go far enough.
Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld said during Monday’s committee meeting that he wished the ordinance would have increased part-time pay to $15 per hour, but that did not stop him — along with fellow Democrats Yvette Simpson, Chris Seelbach, David Mann and Wendell Young — from approving the measure.
WCPO contributor Matt Koesters contributed to this report.