Pay raises expected for all but Greencastle City Council members
You get a raise! And you get a raise! And you get a raise!
... At least that’s how Oprah might have said it.
But not you, Greencastle City Council members. Not you.
In a special meeting Tuesday night, the City Council passed on first reading a pair of ordinances dealing with city salaries for the coming year. Second and final readings are scheduled for adoption at the Council’s regular meeting on Thursday, Oct. 11.
First off Tuesday night the Council unanimously passed first reading of Ordinance 2018-4, which provides a two percent across-the-board pay raise for all fulltime city employees.
Following a motion by Dave Murray, Council members Adam Cohen, Stacie Langdon, Tyler Wade, Mark Hammer and Gary Lemon all added aye votes, while Steve Fields abstained after making several points about the Parks Department losing a fulltime employee (but gaining 600 hours of part-time seasonal help) and what effect that might have on services.
But the real division came on Ordinance 2018-5, which sets the salaries of elected Greencastle officials for 2019.
According to that ordinance, the mayor and clerk-treasurer will each receive the same two percent raises granted all city employees. That will put the mayor’s salary for 2019 at $61,200 and the clerk-treasurer’s compensation at $57,120, figures the City Council believes are more commensurate with their duties and abilities.
For years City Council members have suggested raising the mayor and clerk-treasurer’s salaries but were met annually with resistance by those in office.
In fact, two-term Mayor Sue Murray threatened to veto the salary ordinance if it included a raise for her.
”And Sue had to take a pay cut as a social worker to become mayor,” City Council President Adam Cohen noted.
“That’s right,” responded Councilman Murray with inside information as the former mayor’s husband.
“We’re getting there,” Cohen said of the salary structure aimed at attracting additional qualified future candidates for the city’s two highest offices.
“We targeted the 60s,” veteran Councilman Hammer responded, “and we did get there,” he added in terms of the new $61,200 mayoral salary.
“This goes to the future,” Cohen continued, “to attract the next qualified candidates.”
But the Council’s reaction was mixed to the notion its members would accept a two percent raise -- or $122 each -- to reach an annual salary of $5,000 apiece for their contributions to the city.
While the City Council itself has not taken a raise in at least a dozen years, some members believe the same notion about attracting good candidates should follow suit, while others did not like the message it might send to taxpayers or department heads who have been told they need to tighten their belts and do more with less next year.
Councilman Lemon made the motion to freeze City Council salaries at the 2018 level for next year. Fields quickly seconded and an amendment was made to the original motion to approve the salary ordinance.
“You sit here and listen to how much trouble we’re in (budgetwise for next year) and you look around the room and see that all of us have other sources of income,” Lemon reasoned, well aware that an additional $122 times the seven councilors “is not going to break the bank.”
Instead, he said, it’s the optics or perception it offers.
“We’re saying, ‘You guys have to tighten your belt,’” Lemon said, “but they could say to us, ‘You guys didn’t tighten your belt.’”
Both Lemon and Fields said they honestly did not know their City Council seats came with compensation.
“I didn’t think this was a paid position in the first place,” Fields said.
Lemon said he felt “very strongly” about the pay-hike issue.
“When I ran,” he said, “I didn’t even know we got paid. Every other position I’ve had in the city (including his current Redevelopment Commission role), I haven’t gotten paid.”
Councilman Murray took the opposite stance.
“I understand the optics,” he said, calling the salary conversation “silly.”
“We’re talking $122 here,” Murray said.”It’s chickenfeed.”
Councilor Langdon, meanwhile, suggested the timing was not right to raise their own salaries, whether it was designed to aid in future candidate recruitment or not.
“It needs to be addressed in the future,” she added.
Council President Cohen agreed, noting however, “For the past 15 years we’ve been saying the timing’s not right.”
Clerk-Treasurer Lynda Dunbar reminded those opposed to a raise or even the salary itself could always donate the funds back to the city. However, she said that after consulting with City Attorney Laurie Hardwick, “You have to take the check.”
First reading on the salaries of elected officials, specifying no City Council pay hike for 2019, passed on a 5-2 vote with Lemon, Fields, Wade, Langdon and Cohen in favor and Councilmen Hammer and Murray opposed.
The measure is expected to be adopted on second reading at the regular Oct. 11 Council session, scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall.