Council nixing their raises?

Councilman argues money might help draw candidates

A Seymour city councilman wants the public to know he is not serving in his position for the money.

During a council meeting Oct. 24, District 3 Councilman Matt Nicholson proposed a change to the city’s 2017 salary ordinance for elected officials eliminating a 2.5 percent pay increase for all seven council members.

Although the savings, about $1,000 total, isn’t a significant amount of money in the city’s budget, Nicholson said he felt it was the right thing to do.

He voted against the salary ordinance on its first read Oct. 10. After that meeting, he said he didn’t feel council members needed a raise because it’s not a full-time job.

As per the 2016 salary ordinance, councilmen receive $5,699 each in pay. A 2.5 percent increase would have meant $142 more.

They also receive $100 longevity pay for each year they serve.

Nicholson agreed Mayor Craig Luedeman and Clerk-Treasurer Fred Lewis, along with all other city workers, should get a 2.5 percent raise.

Council President Jim Rebber was the only one to vote against Nicholson’s amendment.

He said the increase in pay for council members is needed to keep people interested in running for office.

“We’ve done this once before, three or four years ago,” Rebber said of not giving raises to council members. “Typically, once you start falling back, there’s no way to raise it back up. There is, but we would not do that.”

Rebber said the city already has trouble finding candidates to run for election.

“We have districts where we don’t get anyone to run,” he said. “We had three or four that didn’t have any competition last election.”

By increasing the pay, Rebber said more people may decide to get involved.

“The money for me doesn’t mean much. I’m looking at are you really going to get people who want to represent and stand up here and talk and get quoted in the paper to do this,” he said.

Rebber said he was amazed in the local county election this year how many offices only have one person running.

“If you don’t pay someone enough for their time, we are going to have less and less and less people running for these offices,” he said.

The 2.5 percent raise allows the city to keep a “competitive salary” so people will want to run, he said.

After the meeting, Councilman Shawn Malone said he hoped Rebber’s opinion fell on deaf ears.

“I could care less about the money,” Malone said. “We are there to be helpful to our community, not get paid.”

Malone said he didn’t know how much council members were paid when he filed his declaration of candidacy.

“I still signed up to be in the race,” he said. “It’s not about the money. It should never be about the money.”

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.