GREENFIELD — Mayor Chuck Fewell is poised to get a nearly $10,000 pay raise in 2016.
It’s the largest raise — about 14 percent — preliminarily approved by the Greenfield City Council for city employees this year. Most of the city’s 200-plus employees are expected to get a $1,000 salary increase. That’s about $200,000 toward salary increases out of the city’s budget.
The overall budget figures have not been released but will include budget totals from the city, utilities and fire service. In 2015, the city’s portion was about $7.3 million; preliminary numbers suggest it will increase to about $8.1 million next year.
Council members who met to go over the 2016 budget this week say the city has some of the best employees around, and in order to retain those employees, they need to pay them a competitive salary. In 2016, provided the city budget is approved by the state, Fewell will make about $75,000, compared with his current salary of about $66,000.
Fewell, who last year made less than some of his subordinates, was pleased with the increase.
“Salary increases are based on merit and need,” he said. “This provides me the assurance that I’ve made a positive change for the city.”
Compared with 2014, the state’s most recent figures, Greenfield’s mayor made a similar salary to those in comparable Indiana cities.
Seymour, for example, paid its mayor $64,321 that year. Fewell made nearly $64,000. In Franklin, which has a population a little larger than Greenfield, the mayor made about $67,600 in 2014.
Raises were not approved in 2011 or 2013 for the following years.
Clerk-Treasurer Larry Breese, whose term ends this year, recommended the council look at increasing the salary for the city’s top elected officials — including his own post, which will be filled by Lori Elmore next year.
“We’re a little light in that area,” he said. “It has been overlooked for a number of years, and I know it’s embarrassing as a public official to ask for raise for yourself.”
Seymour’s clerk-treasurer made about $53,937 in 2014, and Breese made about $60,000. Franklin’s clerk-treasurer made about $59,000.
If the budget is approved, the city’s clerk-treasurer will make a $70,000 salary next year, nearly $8,000 more than in 2015. That’s about a 12 percent increase.
The council unanimously approved the $1,000 raise for employees but was split on how much to pay the mayor and clerk-treasurer.
The council voted 4-3 to approve the raises for the mayor and clerk-treasurer, with Judy Swift, John Patton and Mitch Pendlum voted against the increases.
“In this moment, I just really can’t agree with that. It’s not that I don’t want the mayor and clerk-treasurer to make that kind of money; it’s just that it’s not going along with my philosophy for everything else,” said Swift, who ran unsuccessfully against Fewell in the May primary for mayor.
Besides the mayor and clerk-treasurer, the only city employees expected to get raises higher than $1,000 next year are power and light workers. A $3,000 raise for 19 employees in the power and light department was OK’d.
Greenfield Power and Light superintendent Nelson Castrodale told council members during a meeting this week that he’s lost a number of workers as they moved to higher-paying jobs. When he lost those employees, he lost experience, too, he said.
He asked for a $3,000 raise for his employees, who are charged with maintaining the city’s electrical services, saying similar jobs in other towns and in the private sector pay more than Greenfield.
With the $3,000 raise, the average employee would make about $1.60 more an hour. Their current salaries range from $28,000 from $57,000.
“I feel we need to come up with our competitors. I want to keep these guys,” he said. “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t bring it to your attention.”
Patton, who voted against the $3,000 raise for power and light employees, said if the city approved a special request from one department this year, all departments would ask for the same treatment next year.
Castrodale’s request was an example of that. Last year, the council approved $3,000 raises for the police and fire departments. Other employees received a 3 percent raise.
Other departments made special requests for stand-by pay — a bonus given to employees expected to be immediately available for duty — and additional overtime allowances.
Employees for the street and cemetery departments currently don’t receive standby pay. Street commissioner Tyler Rankins told council members his employees are equally deserving of the bonus, and members agreed, approving his request for 15 employees between the two departments.
Specifics about how much raises will cost the city next year weren’t available at press time; base figures don’t include benefits, Social Security and various taxes.
The state allows for the city’s maximum tax levy — how much it can collect from taxpayers — to grow 2.6 percent.
Breese said city officials expect the budget will hover at that benchmark and therefore be approved by the state without cuts.
The city will advertise figures by Sept. 14; the council will hold a public hearing Oct. 14; and the budget will be ready for adoption Oct. 28.