The Carmel City Council decided against giving Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard a 40 percent raise originally proposed in his 2017 budget and salary ordinance, instead giving him just a 2 percent cost of living adjustment.
Council members themselves, though, will receive a 15 percent pay increase after a 5-2 vote Oct. 17.
Double-digit pay raises for elected officials were originally proposed after the City of Carmel hired a firm to conduct a salary study using comparable cities in other states. Brainard’s new salary would have been $179,344, which is around the midpoint of the study. Carmel City Judge Brian Poindexter was to receive a 20 percent raise to $145,919 and council members would have a 28 percent increase to $22,167. Clerk-Treasurer Christine Pauley was recommended to receive only a 2 percent raise, which led her to claim gender-discrimination in a letter to the council.
The council met in committee and decided to only give all elected officials a 2 percent raise.
City Council President Ron Carter said Brainard is worthy of the large raise but that the next mayor of Carmel might not be as experienced.
The council later decided at its Oct. 17 meeting to give city councilors a 15 percent pay raise to $19,853, which Carter said was done to catch up with six years of not receiving any cost-of-living increase for councilors.
“Our councilors do put in a lot of time,” Councilor Carol Schleif said. “It’s so much more than two meetings a month.”
City Councilors Jeff Worrell and Sue Finkam voted against the idea. Worrell said he made a promise to his constituents to not take more than a cost-of-living raise, and he asked people to consider public perception when it comes to voting for a raise for oneself.
“I would ask you to consider the appearance to our constituents,” Worrell said.
One Carmel resident spoke at the Oct. 17 meeting to encourage the council to approve the original larger raises for all elected officials. Rob Bush, president of Orchard Software in Carmel, argued that pay raises are needed to attract the best talent and that Carmel should compare itself to great cities across the country and not cities in this state.
“If I could emphasize one thing, don’t shortchange yourself when it comes to city-council pay,” he said. “It’s not a part-time position. It’s a full-time job, and it should be paid as such. I think the increase for city council should be $40,000 or $50,000 at least.”