Although its members are split on the idea, the Charter Review Committee will explore whether a requirement that city employees live within the city limits is necessary and, if so, whether it belongs in the city’s charter.
“You’re going to find that most of the higher-paid individuals don’t live in the city,” said committee member Shannon Snyder. “This is a lot of income we’re taking from city taxpayers and watching drive out Fruitville Road into somebody else’s neighborhood.”
The requirement the committee will continue to discuss only pertains to new employees. Existing employees living elsewhere would not be required to move into the city.
Snyder, who is pushing the issue, said the city’s top managers could provide exemptions in certain cases.
Those exemptions may be critical in getting the measure approved, because three of nine committee members have said they either don’t support a residency requirement, or they support it but don’t believe it belongs in the charter.
“I feel very strongly this has no place in the charter,” said committee member John Patterson. “This is something we could draft as hard or as well as we could, and we’d probably screw it up someway.”
Committee member and former Mayor Elmer Berkel was steadfastly against a requirement, because the best candidate for the job may live “one foot over the city line.”
“You want to hire the best person,” he said. “I just can’t see it’s a good proposition for the city.”
The committee will also seek the opinion of City Manager Bob Bartolotta, who previously said he’s always encouraged employees to live in the city.
“If you pay fees, if you pay taxes, you’re more invested in the community,” he said. “Conceptually, I like the idea, but whether you can mandate it (legally) will take more review.”
Four committee members are voicing preliminary support for a requirement in the charter, and two have not voiced their opinions.
The Charter Review Committee suggests charter changes to the City Commission. If the City Commission agrees with the change, it then puts the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.
• Hartford, Conn., requires only non-union department heads and city council aides to live in Hartford.
• New York City mandates city residency for first two years of employment.
• Quincy, Ill., dropped its residency requirement last week because of a number of complaints.
• Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota outlaw residency requirements.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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