Kettering defends payroll amid citizen complaints of overspending

The number of Kettering government employees paid more than $100,000 ballooned from 105 people in 2015 to 122 last year, according to an I-Team analysis of city payroll data.

RELATED: Kettering to hire 13 firefighters in 2017

The analysis comes as some Kettering residents have criticized the city, saying it is spending too much. City leaders countered that those residents have presented “misleading” and “inaccurate” information.

In April, residents Ron Alban and Sterling Abernathy sent nearly 19,000 residents a yellow sheet of paper to correct what they said was “incomplete and confusing” data in a document sent out by the city in March.

“We have a concern that taxpayer money is being wasted in unnecessary and excessive pay and benefits,” Alban said.

Of Kettering’s 20 highest-paid employees last year, 11 came from the city’s fire department, the I-Team found. Kettering had more employees earn six figures last year than much-larger Dayton, and those 11 Kettering fire department employees made more than Dayton Fire Chief Jeffrey Payne’s gross pay of $132,630.

Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman — the city’s highest paid at $191,342 — said the city has been working to reduce the wages brought on by increased amounts of mandatory overtime to firefighters and other public safety positions.

“We’ve had more vacancies and that created more overtime, which creates more employees making over $100,000,” he said.

Kettering had 27 pay periods last year, opposed to 26 in most years, because of a calendar quirk that spikes nearly every city’s payroll about every seven years.

But city officials say overtime is a more constant driver of higher gross compensation in the city.

Schwieterman said of the 122 employees making more than $100,000, 61 of them were a result of overtime wages.

Last March, Kettering said the firefighter overtime spiked because healthcare laws required them to let go of volunteer firefighters.

In December, Kettering announced the city was adding 13 full-time firefighter positions to cut down on mandatory overtime created because of a lack part- and full-timers, after spending nearly $900,000 in overtime for firefighters in 2016.

Schwieterman said the city expects to have all the new firefighters hired and trained by the end of June, which would reduce the overtime hours of other firefighters.

RELATED: Kettering residents to decide on term limits, more on November ballot

Last November, Kettering residents voted to approve charter amendments that would require the city to send residents a report of city employee wages, at the city’s expense.

Kettering responded to the mailer that Alban and Abernathy sent, detailing city personnel costs while comparing salaries and benefits of city employees to other local governments.

MORE: Kettering looking to fill 100 jobs

Schwieterman gave a 30-minute presentation in response to the citizen-led mailer during a council meeting this month.

“It gave us the opportunity to present the facts regarding some of the claims in the yellow mailer,” Schwieterman said.

Schwieterman acknowledged the mailer the city provided may have been confusing, but it was confusing because the charter language kept the city from adding information that would have made it clearer, he said.

The charter states the report should include: “the position title of each such employee; the total wages paid by the city to each such employee and the monetary value of the city’s portion of all benefits provided to each such employee”

Alban and Abernathy’s mailer says the state auditor issued a “red alert” for overspending. In his presentation, Schwieterman said the use of the term was to “alarm and mislead Kettering residents,” while acknowledging the city did receive a “critical” indicator from the auditor.

“We did receive a “critical outlook” on one standard because we spent more money, entity wide, than we reported in revenues. This is the difference in reporting methods, not a breach of fiscal accountability,” he said.

MORE: Kettering council to continue street light upgrade

Alban stood by the mailer he and Abernathy sent out, while calling for Kettering to conduct an independent study on city personnel costs relative to other area governments.

“If Kettering council is convinced that all is well, it would have no problem commissioning this study,” Alban said. “We believe such a study, based upon the facts presented in the mailer, will show there is excessive spending.”

Alban said if a study showed excessive spending, the council should submit a plan to “get our costs back in line.”

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