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WTOL 11 Investigates: How much are tax payers spending on city employees?

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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

If you live or work in Toledo, you pay taxes to Toledo. That means you're helping pay the 2,900 full-time employees of the city of Toledo. But pay them how much?  

We thought you might like to know since it is your money; a lot of your money.

You might assume the mayor  is the top wage-earner in a "strong-mayor" form of government.

Not so. In fact, we found that while Mayor Mike Bell's 2013 salary of $122,400 was the top base salary in the city, his total earnings didn't even put him in the top 10 of city of Toledo wage earners.

Checking out numbers in the city finance office, we learned that 8 city workers had a base salary over $100,000 in 2013.  We also discovered that, in reality, the full list of six-figure city wage-earners included 30 employees. 

One major reason for that is overtime.  The largest sum paid in overtime to a single employee in 2013 was over $39,000.  The top 10 overtime earners all earned upwards of $23,000 last year. 

Eight of the 10 are police officers.  But that number one overtime earner?  That was Michael Scott, a general foreman in the streets division who oversees demolitions, including fire demolitions. Scott is often called out after hours.

You might think that the answer to so much overtime is to simply hire more people.  Toledo Finance Director George Sarantou points out the problem with that approach.  

"When you hire more people, you also have to pay out more benefits and our benefit package is a very good benefit package as most companies in the private sector offer," said Sarantou.

We found out that city workers can bank unused sick time.  After 25 years on the job, they can turn 50 percent of that time into cash.  Last year, the top ten severance packages ranged from just over $59,000 all the way up to over $125,000.

"Again, this is something that has been negotiated in past labor situations," said Sarantou.

City leaders there say they constantly monitor what other Ohio cities and cities our size in the Midwest pay their workers.  They contend Toledo fares pretty well.

"Our salaries are not at the highest level.  In fact, very often they're at the bottom," said Sarantou.

The city has made big strides in cutting costs.  Sarantou says Toledo employs 300 to 400 fewer workers than when he joined city council 12 years ago.  He says recent pay raises have been very low and union employees have agreed to pick up more of their pension costs. 

Sarantou says for labor unions, it's a matter of protecting jobs. 

"The bargaining units understand, as we clearly understand, that we can't afford that kind of a benefit and if we continue down that road, there will be massive layoffs," said Sarantou.

So who was the city's top wage earner in 2013?  Former Police Chief Derrick Diggs cashed in his severance after it became clear that incoming Mayor D. Michael Collins was going to replace him.  After a long and storied career with the city, that severance alone topped six figures and helped Diggs earn a total package of nearly $319,000, according to the finance department. 

Crime may not pay, but in Toledo, crime-fighting certainly does.

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