Council at odds over pay increase

Some do not agree with raise decision, cite working hours

Seymour City Council members will get a 2.5 percent raise next year, along with all other elected and appointed city officials.

But not all of them agree with the increase.

During Monday night’s meeting, Councilman Matt Nicholson proposed to amend the salary ordinance on second read to keep the council from receiving more pay. That amendment died, however, after getting just one other vote in its favor from Councilman Dave Earley.

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Councilman Shawn Malone made the same suggestion at the Oct. 10 meeting during the salary ordinance’s first read. Malone was absent, however, Monday night.

Nicholson said all hourly and salaried employees along with Mayor Craig Luedeman and Clerk-Treasurer Fred Lewis should receive raises because they work full-time hours, whereas council members do not have set hours and typically meet just twice a month.

Because the 2018 budget is around $500,000 more than the current budget, Nicholson said the city needs to find ways to save money whenever and wherever it can.

“That’s why I don’t feel like a raise is needed,” he said. “I guess it’s the small businessman in me. I always take a raise last and pay the bills first.”

Councilman Brian D’Arco said he voted against the amendment because each councilman can refuse the raise on their own if they want to.

“It is your option not to take the raise at that point in time,” he said.

Councilman Lloyd Hudson, who serves as chair of the finance committee, said the savings would not be significant enough to impact the city’s budget.

Currently, the seven council members receive $6,016 in pay annually. With a 2.5 percent increase, that amount goes up $150 per person, increasing the total budget by $1,050, Hudson said.

“My thinking is on a budget of $13 or $14 million, a $1,050 savings is not going to do a whole lot,” he said. “For us to say we’ll not take a raise, we’re giving up $150 for the year so I don’t think that is any significant amount.”

After researching what other communities pay their council members, Nicholson said it ranged from $12,450 down to $3,000 so there’s no “staying in line” with what other communities are doing, he said.

“It’s across the board in different places,” he said.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the council unanimously passed a resolution to file an appeal with the Department of Local Government Finance for relief from property tax limitations and the resulting revenue shortfall.

“This allows the city to capture property taxes or the budget money that we did not get this year because property taxes fell short or there were appeals granted that the budget was based on prior to those appeals,” Luedeman said.

The city is appealing for around $226,000, he added.

There is, however, no guarantee the city will receive the money.

“You can apply for it, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get it, but if you don’t apply for it, you won’t have the opportunity to get it,” he said.

The amount, if approved, will be added to the 2018 budget.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve done this,” Luedeman said. “We’ve done this several times over the last few years.”

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