OTTUMWA—The Ottumwa City Council has officially decided to follow the way of the state of Iowa when it comes to minimum wage.
In September, Wapello County Supervisors approved a plan to raise the county minimum wage above the $7.25 that is currently in place for the state. On January 1, 2017, the Wapello county minimum wage will increase to $8.20 per hour. That rate will then increase again on January 1, 2018 to $9.15 per hour. The third increase would occur on January 1, 2019 raising the minimum wage for the county to $10.10 per hour.
Although individual counties have the right to raise their minimum wage above what the state has set, they are not able to force the cities within the county to follow suit. Cities may create their own ordinance separate from the county, as long as their wage rate is at least as high as the state’s. This is the direction that Wapello county’s largest city has chosen to go.
In what was the final of three votes of the Ottumwa City Council, the outcome was 3-2 against the county’s minimum wage increase. This result was no surprise as it remained the same as the two previous votes from the councilmembers. Councilmembers Matt Dalbey and Victor Streeby voted for the wage increase while Marc Roe, Skip Stevens, and Bob Meyers voted to opt out.
Councilmembers made it clear to members of the audience that this issue was something they had all struggled with. Each one wanting to do what they believed was right for the community. Supporters have said that this wage increase would help low-income families in what has been determined to be the poorest county in Iowa. Opponents, however, believe that this would force some businesses eliminate jobs and even move to other counties.
“This is one of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with,” explained Councilmember Stevens.
While the official vote was for Ottumwa to opt out of the wage hike, councilmembers did make it clear that they were not against a minimum wage increase altogether. Their belief is that it is an issue that needs to be handled at a state level and not decided as quickly as Wapello County Surpervisors did.