City gives initial OK to 2% pay increases

The Columbus City Council has given initial approval for Columbus employees and elected officials to receive a 2 percent cost-of-living raise in 2016.

The council, which considered the 2016 salary ordinance Tuesday night, must give final approval before the end of September.

Only Councilman Frank Miller voted against the proposal, which will come up for a second vote Sept. 15.

During the discussion, Miller asked whether the elected salary ordinance had to be renewed annually and whether it could be frozen at current levels for the next four years.

City Attorney Jeff Logston said state law prohibits current officeholders from setting pay rates beyond a year because it affects compensation for people who had not yet taken office.

Miller also asked if there was a way to refuse any increase, and Logston said that was not possible. Mayor Kristen Brown previously tried to decline her annual increase and instead ended up donating the increase to charity.

“It’s just the idea that a lot of people don’t like it when the city council votes itself a raise,” Miller said.

The salaries are being approved as a range, meaning there also are opportunities for merit raises for high-performing employees.

For example, in the city’s engineering department, engineering technicians have a range of $29,002 to $41,432.

In addition to the 2 percent raises, two city departments were given initial approval to add an employee.

The city’s animal control department, which operates the animal shelter, has initial approval to add a service officer, increasing from three to four officers who pick up strays and deal with animal complaints.

The position, which will pay in the range of $26,863 to $38,375, will add another person to investigate complaints of loose, neglected, abused, abandoned or nuisance animals, recover stray animals, collect and dispose of dead animals and rescue animals, said Kevin Konetzka, animal control enforcement manager.

The city department has six full-time and two part-time employees, said Nicohl Birdwell-Goodin, animal control manager.

Councilmen did question the increased budget for animal control, asking Birdwell-Goodin if the part-timers were still necessary. She said the part-timers — usually college students who provide support to the full-time staff — continue to be vital to the operation.

Council President Tim Shuffett pointed out the new position amounted to a 27 percent increase in that department’s budget.

However, councilmen also took into account that the city’s operations and finance department proposed to eliminate a position that had been used for online maintenance. That opened up some money that could be used for the position, said Matt Caldwell, the city’s director of operations and finance, who presented the salary ordinance to the council.

The city’s transit department, which is public bus service, has initial approval to add a second-shift mechanic.

Brian Burton, city garage manager, said adding the mechanic will allow the city to eliminate keeping an employee on call during the second shift when buses continue to run after regular city hours. The position will pay $15.81 to $22.59 per hour, the proposed ordinance states.

In other changes, the position of metropolitan planning officer has been moved from its own line item to a position in the city’s planning department, Caldwell said.

The city hall facilities building and grounds maintenance employees are designated to receive an additional $1 an hour, with pay ranges from $7.25 an hour to $13.71 an hour.

The city’s parks department is proposing to add five positions to operate the city’s two golf courses, Par 3 and Greenbelt, Caldwell said.

The parks board had sent out a request for proposals to contract out the courses’ operation but has not reached any agreements with anyone, Logston said.

Since the current golf course management contract is set to expire in October, the parks department plans to pay for the five positions out of its non-reverting fund, which is money collected from its program registrations, to operate the courses next year, Logston said. However, if the board comes to an agreement with an operator for the courses, it will revert back to that plan, he said.

Logston could not provide how much money the five positions would take from the non-reverting fund but said the fund is at about $1 million.

Councilman Ryan Brand said what has typically happened with money in the non-reverting fund is that any excess funds there are used for parks programming, and in this case the parks board wishes to use that funding for golf.

Elected officials salary proposal

The following 2016 elected official salaries were approved on first reading Tuesday and will be considered again by the Columbus City Council at 6 p.m. Sept. 15.

Mayor: $90,332

Clerk-treasurer: $74,909

Council members: $7,554.

In addition to the salaries, the mayor and the clerk-treasurer are considered full-time employees and are entitled to benefits set forth for all full-time employees in the city’s personnel policy manual.

Where to find the salary ordinance

The proposed salary ordinances for elected officials and city employees is located on the city website under its documents link, which is at the bottom of the site at columbus.in.gov/.

To access it, click on documents and then click on city council. The salary documents are listed in the Sept. 1 council meeting dropbox and may be downloaded or viewed.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.