The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, October 13, 2021 1:00 am

Pay hikes for city workers approved

4% wage increases also applies to elected officials

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

City employees and elected officials are expected to receive a 4% raise in 2022.

The Fort Wayne City Council on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to the increase for elected city officials and all city, non-public safety, non-union employees. A 4% raise for all non-union public safety employees received initial approval at council's budget meeting last week.

Wages for officers and firefighters are determined by union negotiations. Garry Morr, city controller, pointed out during the budget meetings that council approved the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association union contract for all Fort Wayne Police Department patrol officers, which locked in 5% raises for each of the next three years.

The union contract for Fraternal Order of Police was introduced at Tuesday's council meeting and also includes 5% raises. Council members encouraged Fort Wayne Fire Chief Eric Lahey to aim for 5% raises for firefighters in the union's ongoing negotiations.

City funding allows for 4% increases for all non-union employees, Morr said, even if it will be the biggest annual raise city employees have received in recent history.

“In fact, this budget that I have presented to council is not only a balanced budget but it is also a budget with an excess cash balance of $6 million,” he said. “Revenues are higher than expenditures.”

Since 2010, the city has given employees an average raise of 1.92%, Morr said. City employees have received 3% raises the past three years, but the city has also had years when employees didn't receive an annual raise.

The raises are also an attempt to help with employee recruitment and retention, Morr said.

“When the city has had difficult financial situations, which we've had in the past – 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 – one of the first things that are cut: city employee raises,” Morr said. “We're at the opposite of having bad financial times.”

Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, pointed out that the raises will help employees keep up financially with the increasing cost of living.

“That's really all we are giving employees is a standard living increase,” he said.

Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th, said people tend to be sad when talking about budget matters, but she was excited to extend the raise to civil servants.

“When we do have lean hours, we expect our staff to stand beside us and to take the no increase,” she said. “Many of them have with zero complaints.”

The 4% raise was given initial approval on a 8-1 vote with Jason Arp, R-4th, opposing it. He did not indicate why during the meeting.

Elected officials were up for the same raise through a separate ordinance. Arp immediately proposed an amendment – to give a 4% raise to all elected officials, except for City Council members, who would stay at their 2021 salary of $23,635.

Council President Paul Ensley, R-1st, made a motion for Arp's suggestion, but it failed with all members voting against it except for Ensley and Arp. The motion to approve the 4% raise for all elected officials including council members was approved with a 7-2 vote with Ensley and Arp voting against it.

Ensley said City Council approving a raise for itself at this time “is in poor taste.”

“We're just coming through the COVID pandemic. A lot of people have lost their jobs, and some people have had some really hard time, frankly, because of government policies,” he said. “I just don't think City Council should be giving themselves a raise this year.”

At the end of the meeting, Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, made a motion to hold the salary ordinances until the council's meeting in two weeks, which is typical during the budget process. It passed with a 7-2 vote with Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large, and Tucker opposing.

City Council works on the budget annually during each of its Tuesday meetings in October.

Any proposed cuts will be discussed during the council's next two meetings, and the council is expected is expected to adopt the budget at the Oct. 26 meeting.

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