By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FAIRFIELD - Heaping praise on City Manager Art Pizzano, City Council on Monday overwhelmingly approved a 13.6 percent increase in salary and retirement benefits for him - bringing his total compensation package to nearly $200,000.
By a 5-1 vote, council raised Pizzano's base salary 4 percent from $114,738 to $119,328 this year and approved other benefits - including paying $11,772 a year for the next five years to buy out-of-state credits for him for government service.
Combined with other perks such as standard health insurance and car allowance, that brings his total compensation to $190,662.
"We have the cream of the crop by far," Councilman Ron D'Epifanio said of Pizzano. "I think (the package) is the prudent thing to do with taxpayer money."
The retirement credits alone would be worth $58,860.
By comparison, Cincinnati City Manager Valerie Lemmie earns $176,000 in base pay and $193,000 in total compensation.
Pizzano oversees a city with a 44,000 population, $50 million budget and 240 full-time and 150 part-time and seasonal employees.
The package was necessary, most City Council members said, to retain Pizzano at least another five years as the city continues revitalization efforts.
Pizzano, 53, is credited for boosting Fairfield's aging image with a new downtown, Village Green, which is bustling with business.
Since he began overseeing the city in 1998, Fairfield has made additional strides such as improved employee morale, other City Council members noted Monday.
"During my time on City Council, we have done a lot of good things...but the best thing I have been associated with is the hiring of Art Pizzano," Councilman Steve Miller said.
But Councilwoman Jill Kinder objected, saying the package is too much. While she agreed Pizzano does a good job, she noted that the average raise for many city employees was 3.5 percent.
"We are not here to debate his job performance," Kinder said. "This is strictly on the amount of the raise and being consistent (with) what we have asked from all of our employees."
She thanked the city's police officers, firefighters and street workers Monday for taking a 3.5 percent pay increase this year, adding:
"And I wished our city manager would have stepped up to the plate and done the same as well."
Some neighbors agreed and phoned council members Monday before the meeting to protest. Opponents said they were disappointed in council for proposing such a large contract.
However, other residents said they approve of Pizzano's compensation, adding that the city has saved money and won numerous awards under his tenure.
In other business Monday, City Council:
Agreed to hold off hiring sharpshooters to address the city's coyote population in favor of educating the public on how to exist with them. Police Chief Michael Dickey also was asked to look into the possibility of spaying the animals to reduce their numbers.
Postponed until Feb. 24 adopting an ordinance, which would ban unlicensed massage parlors in the city, to allow more time for input from a business operator who has issues with the proposed code.
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