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Tiffin could apply minimum wage ordinance to adults only

Council to discuss reverting those younger than 18 years old to state rate

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TIFFIN — Already a county with two minimum wage rules, Johnson County may be facing a third.

Members of the Tiffin City Council plan to discuss a city ordinance that would apply Johnson County’s ongoing minimum wage increases only to those 18-years-old or older.

The council on Feb. 2 will host a public hearing and discussion on the potential ordinance that, if approved, would allow Tiffin businesses to pay employees younger than 18-years-old below the county’s new rate.

“That’s how the draft ordinance is going to read,” said Doug Boldt, Tiffin city administrator. “Basically, that we would opt out of Johnson County’s ordinance if you are under 18.”

It’s been about three months since the first increase to Johnson County’s minimum wage was implemented. In May, the second 95-cent hike will take effect and bring the county wage to $9.25 an hour. That rate will reach $10.10 in 2017.

The council has not formally discussed the matter as a whole. As an ordinance, it would take three readings to pass.

The Tiffin City Council has been split on the minimum wage issue since the countywide ordinance was announced by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors last fall. Tiffin’s council members eventually decided to go along with the county ordinance, but with the intent of revisiting the topic early this year.

Council member Jim Bartels said he supports the county’s minimum wage increase, but added that he could approve the potential ordinance to help reduce the impact on small business owners who may employ a younger, less experienced staff.

“I could go for the tiered system, I think it would be better than not having anything, it would be better than saying, ‘Absolutely no, we’re not going to go along with Johnson County,’” he said.

If approved, the ordinance would allow employers to pay those under 18 years old as low as $7.25 an hour — the state/federal minimum wage.

“Obviously this doesn’t prevent an employer from paying more, in fact most employers already pay more than the minimum wage,” Council member Al Havens said.

Council member Joann Kahler said she is opposed to the minimum wage ordinance, but added she could support the tiered system, which would give employers some flexibility when paying new hires,

“I just don’t think we should be in the business of telling people what they should pay for wages,” she said. “I feel people have to show they earned their wages.”

In Johnson County, communities like Shueyville, Solon and Swisher passed counter ordinances to stick with the state rate.

Other communities, including Iowa City and North Liberty, voted last fall to go with the county ordinance, but expressed interest in performing added research on the local impact on businesses, non-profits and service providers.

When contacted Tuesday, officials with the Iowa City’s City Managers Office said they had not yet been directed by the council to research the minimum wage ordinance’s impact.

North Liberty’s council will likely meet late February or early March to discuss the issue again, said City Administrator Ryan Heiar.

“The last time we discussed it they indicated they’d like to have another discussion before the second phase,” he said.

To the north, Linn County’s Board of Supervisors voted last week to have county staff begin the process of creating a working group to explore the impact of a county wide minimum wage increase.

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