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Salem council OKs union contracts

SALEM- City council agreed Tuesday to approve new three-year contracts regarding benefits for each of the four unions representing city employees.

Unions representing the police, fire, utilities and service department workers (including traffic and safety, parks, income tax and city hall custodian) had already voted in favor of the contracts.

Mayor John Berlin said he’ll be signing the documents which will then require the signatures of the union representatives before becoming official.

Council met in executive session for a little over 10 minutes to hear the details from the mayor, who noted the contracts do not cover wages, which will be discussed beginning in October. A decision on wages was delayed to gauge the effect of COVID-19 on the city’s income, so the administration would have a better idea of what kind of shape the finances are in.

At the same council meeting, there was no mention of a recent decision related to the Regional Income Tax Agency, which will likely affect the jobs of at least two represented employees and a part-time worker in the city income tax office when RITA takes over Jan. 1.

Earlier this year, city council voted to contract with the council of governments known as RITA for the administration and collection of city income taxes. The service was supposed to start July 1, but was delayed after a citizen group tried to get the question of joining RITA on the ballot.

After the group collected enough valid signatures and submitted the question to the Columbiana County Board of Elections, Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey filed a protest with the elections board, claiming the function of choosing RITA was administrative and couldn’t be overturned by referendum.

The elections board tied at 2-2 along party lines on the protest and the Ohio Secretary of State last week decided in favor of Dickey’s protest, which means there will be no ballot issue on RITA this fall.

When asked Tuesday about the situation, Berlin said he notified council by email last week that he signed the agreement for participation in the regional council of governments (known as RITA) for the administration and collection of

municipal income tax in Salem. He had been given authorization to sign the agreement in January.

Since the original effective date of July 1 had come and gone, he said a revised effective date of Jan. 1, 2021 has been set.

“RITA has assured me that 90+ days is a sufficient amount of time for the transition. My wish is that everyone work together to make this transition as smooth as possible,” he wrote.

He said employees in the city income tax office will be apprised of their rights, with more information to come.

In other business, Dickey announced a Rules and Ordinances Committee meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 22 regarding door-to-door solicitors, along with a couple other items, including fines and fees related to solicitors. Zoom information for the meeting will be announced closer to the date.

Councilmen Sal Salvino and Steve Faber noted that school is back in session and days are getting shorter, advising people to watch out for the children in their daily travels.

The next council meeting will be 7 p.m. Oct. 6.

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