Carmel Mayor Brainard set to receive 7 percent raise in 2019

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is poised to receive a 7 percent raise next year, bringing his 2019 salary to $148,786.

Brainard, who is in his sixth term and already the highest paid mayor in Hamilton County—and among the highest paid mayors in the state—is expected to earn $139,053 this year after the council last year approved a 6.55 percent raise for 2018.

On Monday, the Carmel City Council introduced an ordinance setting bi-weekly wages for its elected officials, including the mayor, Judge Brian Poindexter, Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley and council members. If the ordinance is approved, Brainard would earn $5,722.56 every two weeks. 

Carmel's other elected officials would see a 3 percent cost-of-living raise under the proposed ordinance, which will be reviewed by the council’s finance committee before being brought back to the full council with a recommendation later this month.

Comparatively, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness is expected to receive the same 3 percent raise other employees are getting next year. Westfield and Noblesville are still working on their budgets and have yet to introduce specific salary ordinances for any city employees, including the mayor.

Carmel’s human resources director Barb Lamb recommended the pay raise for Brainard, pointing to a two-year old study that showed Brainard makes less than mayors and city managers in out-of-state communities comparable to Carmel, such as Germantown, Tennessee; Woodbury, Minnesota; and Maple Grove, Minnesota. Those mayors in 2016 earned between $156,339 and $212,250.

“These cities are more similarly situated than those in our state,” she said in written comments.

Following the 2016 study, the human resources department recommended the council approve a 40 percent pay raise for Brainard, which would have brought his annual salary to $179,000, making him the highest paid city employee.  

That year, the council sparred over the recommendation, ultimately choosing to give him a 2 percent raise.

“The council rationale was that it was too much at one time and should be spread out over a longer period,” Lamb said.

Last year, they gave him a 6.55 percent raise, with some councilors suggesting he deserved more.

Lamb said even with a 7 percent raise next year, Brainard will still be paid less than some city employees. Numerous department directors are making almost as much as the mayor, and some are making significantly more, she said.

City attorney Doug Haney, for example, earns $170,285 a year. James Crider, the city’s director of administration, earns $152,664. And Nancy Heck, director of community relations and economic development, makes $145,958.

Heck said given his vision and leadership, Brainard should be compensated at the top of the pay scale.

“Our city has seen a great deal of success using many standards, including being consistently ranked No. 1 in America in various categories,” she said in written comments. “Our mayor has brought millions in economic development into the city due to his vision and leadership. …The city’s redevelopment projects have brought about half a billion [dollars] in private investment within a few miles of our new downtown.”

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