Hope approves budget, salary proposals

HOPE — If final approval is given in November, Hope employees will receive a 2.5% cost of living wage increase next year.

That’s according to the town’s salary ordinance that received first reading preliminary approval this month. Final approval will be considered during the town council’s Nov. 21st meeting.

Council vice-president Clyde Compton suggest 2.5% because it’s higher than the 1.7% average cost-of-living increase across the United States. However, Compton said his proposal also takes into account higher expenses related to supply chain disruptions and production being brought to a halt by several companies.

“I felt this would be a good split,” Compton said.

In comparison, the town of Columbus passed a 2% cost-of-living increase, while Bartholomew County government approved a 3% pay hike.

But once the vote was taken by the Hope Town Council, concern was raised about higher wages needed to attract a new animal control officer, as well as utility workers and police officers that can be called out at any time to handle an emergency situation. A motion that could include the 2.5% raise for on-call pay was unanimously approved.

With little to nothing changed since a preliminary budget was present in August, the town council also gave final approval to their 2022 budget. The total will be $1,509,376 — about 16% higher than the $1,302,292 approved for this year.

But that figure includes $70,000 originally obtained for COVID-19 relief purposes that has not been earmarked for any particular expense, Hope Clerk-Treasurer Diane Burton said.

The local tax rate will raise $683,463 for the town’s general fund. The amount earmarked for local roads and street maintenance is tentatively set at $65,000 — up $5,000 from this year.

The northeast Bartholomew County community of 2,200 residents will also receive:

$80,082 from its motor vehicle highway fund (up 21%)

$108,000 from the cumulative capital development fund (up 12%)

$325,831 from the economic development income tax (up 11%)

$20,000 from the casino/riverboat tax (up 33%)

$20,000 from income tax revenue for public safety (up 38%)

In addition, $40,000 has been set aside for road and street paving projects, council members said.