Carmel City Council approves modest raise for Brainard

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The Carmel City Council slashed proposed raises for other elected officials to 2 percent on Monday night, but gave itself a 15 percent pay increase.

The council’s finance committee discussed the salary ordinance last week and recommended 2 percent salary increases for all elected officials, including council members, instead of the hefty raises originally suggested.

The initial salary ordinance included a 40 percent raise for Mayor Jim Brainard, a 20 percent increase for Judge Brian Poindexter and a 28 percent pay boost for city council members. Brainard’s salary would have increased from $127,946 to $179,344; Poindexter’s from $120,978 to $145,919; and council members from $17,246 to $22,167.

Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley’s salary was the only elected official position already slated for a 2 percent raise, from $104,656 to $106,749.

The full council initially amended the ordinance Monday night for 2 percent raises across the board, but council president Ron Carter introduced an amendment to increase the council’s annual pay to $19,853.

Carter said the increase accounts for the years the council declined to take a pay boost. The council didn’t receive a pay increase from 2010-2013. In 2014, the salary increased 1.7 percent.

The council approved the amendment 5-2, with council members Sue Finkam and Jeff Worrell voting against it.

“What Ron is proposing is basically just catching us up to everybody else,” council member Carol Schleif said before the vote. “From a fairness standpoint, I’m going to be voting for this amendment.”

The 2 percent raises were approved for Brainard, Poindexter and Pauley. Brainard’s salary will be $130,504 and Poindexter will earn $123,397. The rates take effect next year.

The council also approved the city’s 2017 budget Monday night, after cutting more than $203,000 from the clerk-treasurer’s departmental budget. The amount reduced from the clerk-treasurer’s department included funding for a new position, consulting fees and legal fees.

The relationship between the council and Pauley has been tense since budget hearings in September when members questioned how she was spending her time and only proposed a 2 percent raise for her salary despite the hefty pay increases proposed for other elected officials.

Pauley sent a letter to the council on Sept. 30 that argued for fair salary increases for elected officials and claimed the council had discriminated against her based on her gender.

Carter briefly addressed the accusations during the finance committee meeting last week, saying the council had not done any of the things mentioned in Pauley’s letter. Pauley supported 2 percent raises for all elected officials.

The council also voted to reduce the property tax rate by 1 cent from the original proposal of 0.7985 to 0.7885, which is expected to save homeowners about $600,000.

The city estimates it will lose $300,000 in county option income tax revenue in 2018 as a result of the reduction, but several council members argued it was the better option to save taxpayers money next year.

For a home valued at $225,000, the property owner can expect to save $13.35 next year.

Brainard opposed lowering the rate, arguing that the city needed to keep a strong operating balance to maintain its bond ratings.

“The impact on the taxpayer is minimal,” Brainard said of the savings.

The council approved the reduction in the tax rate by a 4-3 vote, with Carter, Worrell and Bruce Kimball opposing it.

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