Carmel mayor’s budget proposes a 40 percent pay raise for himself

Mayor Jim Brainard

Mayor Jim Brainard

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard has submitted his budget for 2017, along with a salary ordinance that includes a $50,000 pay raise for himself, which is a 40 percent increase.

The mayor’s salary is proposed to increase from $127,946 a year to $179,344 a year. It will be introduced at the City Council meeting on Oct. 3 but will likely not be passed on first reading to allow the public time to comment.

Prior to the ordinance being released, Brainard told Current in Carmel that his salary was going up, “around $35,000 or $40,000 or something.”

“City manager salaries can be way above that,” he said. “In some cities they make $200,000 or $300,000.”

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett makes $99,000 a year. When asked about the discrepancy, Brainard said, “They don’t have money to get their roads paved.”

“It’s a ridiculously low salary for someone representing a city of that size,” he said. “It’s a billion-dollar business.”

If passed, the salary increase would make Brainard the highest paid mayor in the state. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is currently the state’s highest paid mayor at $142,096.

“We don’t really look at Indiana when we do salary comparisons,” Brainard said.

The mayor said the salary increase is necessary.

“It’s important to attract qualified people to run for office,” he said. “Many of the mayors we look at (for comparison) can make seven or eight times that in the private sector.”

Mayor Hogsett earns less than all of the Hamilton County mayors. Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness makes $125,000, Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear makes $112,448 and Westfield Mayor Andy Cook makes $108,200.

When it was announced that Brainard was considering a run for Congress if Susan Brooks was selected as governor, many people said they’d be interested in being named Brainard’s replacement, including former City Council President Rick Sharp, County Commissioner Christine Pauley and City Councilors Sue Finkam, Ron Carter, Jeff Worrell and Kevin “Woody” Rider.

“It’s about what type of people you would want running for mayor,” Brainard said. “People complain about government, but part of the problem is that we’ve artificially held salaries down from the top down so the best people can’t afford to do it.”

In addition to Brainard’s salary increase, many other department heads, elected officials and city employees have raises proposed. Many of the department head raises are between 25 and 30 percent more. The salary ordinance for employees — not elected officials — outlines the maximum possible salary, not necessarily where the salary might actually fall. Brainard said many of the department heads needed raises because some of their staff members and seconds-in-command were making nearly as much when overtime was considered.

For example, the fire chief and the police chief would see their maximum salaries increase by 25 percent, from $116,619 a year to $145,919 a year.

Last year, City Attorney Doug Haney received a 20 percent increase in pay, and Nancy Heck, director of community relations and economic development, received a 10 percent increase. Brainard said Haney’s pay increase was because he was far below market value, and Heck’s was because she was given added job responsibility with economic development. Heck has a 35 percent salary increase proposed for 2017 to more than $160,000. Haney has an 8 percent increase proposed for 2017 to about the same amount as Heck. Both have additional staff members for 2017 compared to 2016, which is because of growth in city population, Brainard said.

City Councilors would see a 28 percent pay increase from $17,246 a year to $22,167 a year. Most councilors have other jobs or are retired.

“It’s slightly below what Fishers is proposing,” Brainard said. “We don’t pay too much attention to what Indianapolis is doing.”

The city judge would see his salary increase by 20 percent, from $120,965 a year to $145,919 a year.

The clerk-treasurer would receive by far the smallest salary increase of all the elected officials: only 5 percent. Her salary would go from $101,608 a year to $106,749. It’s possible she could make less than her deputy clerk-treasurer, who could have a maximum salary for 2017 of $129,205 a year. The deputy clerk treasurer is a newly created position and is not elected.

Rick Sharp, former president of the Carmel City Council and Brainard’s opponent in the past mayoral election, questioned why Brainard would need to earn so much money. He said the city shouldn’t be trying to recruit public servants with money.

“You never do public service to enrich yourself,” he said.

Sharp said he believes the current city council will approve the salary increases.

“Who’s going to tell him no?” he said. “It’s ludicrous that a mayor the size of a city of Carmel would command a salary like that. I think it’s outrageous.”

Explaining the increase

Melanie Lentz, a spokeswoman for the City of Carmel, released a statement about the salaries on Sept. 29:

“Carmel has conducted a comprehensive salary review for its city-wide pay scale, something that had not been done, partly due to the great recession, since 2006.  Archer, an outside salary and benefit consultant was retained to perform a comprehensive salary survey and pay plan update study, from which we proposed the new salary plan to the Carmel City Council.

There are differences in the roles of mayors from state to state. In many states, there are cities with both mayors and city managers. But in Indiana, it is the mayor of a city that performs both.

In cities that Carmel competes with for economic development and in other areas, the salary levels are comparable. For example, in Flower Mounds, Texas, the city manager makes $211,500; in Dublin, Ohio, the city  manager was making $198,000 in 2013; and in Grapevine, Texas, a Dallas suburb that is half of the size of Carmel (population 48,000) the city manager makes $196,000.

Mayor Brainard has served more than 20 years as mayor of Carmel and the City has always believed it is important to attract and keep the best and brightest by keeping the city’s salary structure competitive.

Over the years, the Mayor has had opportunities to leave public service for the private sector, where salaries and compensation for being a corporate executive for a company the size of Carmel’s workforce would be much higher. Earlier this year, the Mayor considered a potential seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where the salary is roughly what is being proposed now for 2017.

We feel it is appropriate to compensate this position – and others in the city – at a level where we can keep the kinds of people who have played a key role in Carmel’s tremendous success in economic growth and job creation and continue to build Carmel into one of the best places to live, work and raise a family in the U.S.

Also note: The city’s tax rate was not raised in order to provide additional salary compensation. In fact, the tax rate is projected to decline in 2017.”

Postition 2016 2017 Increase Percentage
Police Chief 116619.88 145919.02 29299.14 0.2512362386
Assistant Police Chief 99711.04 107615.04 7904 0.07926905586
Police Major 91752.96 98601.1 6848.14 0.07463672017
Fire Chief 116619.88 145919.02 29299.14 0.2512362386
Assistant Fire Chief 99711.04 107615.04 7904 0.07926905586
Battalion Chief (Fire) 87707.88 98601.1 10893.22 0.1241988747
Mayor 127,946.00 179344.88 51,398.88 0.401723227
Mayor’s Executive Office Manager 63431.94 76065.08 12633.14 0.1991605491
Mayor’s Assistant 55338.92 67050.88 11711.96 0.2116405597
Director of Community Relations and Economic Development 116619.88 162632.08 46012.2 0.3945485109
Project Manager 71523.92 76065.08 4541.16 0.06349148648
Corproation Counsel 150073.04 162632.08 12559.04 0.08368618374
Director of Administration 116619.88 162632.08 46012.2 0.3945485109
Director of Information and Computer Systems 99711.04 129205.96 29494.92 0.2958039551
Director of Human Resources 99711.04 129205.96 29494.92 0.2958039551
Golf Course Superintendent 99711.04 105493.96 5782.92 0.05799678752
Director of Community Services 116619.88 145919.02 29299.14 0.2512362386
City Engineer 116619.88 145919.02 29299.14 0.2512362386
Street Commissioner 108164.94 129205.96 21041.02 0.194527173
Utilitis Director 116619.88 145919.02 29299.14 0.2512362386
Clerk Treasurer 101,608.00 106749.24 5,141.24 0.05059877175
Chief Deputy Clerk Treasurer N/A 129,205.96
Carmel City Councilors 16744 22167.08 5423.08 0.3238819876
City Judge $104,656 145919.02 24,941.02 0.2061616162

This story has been updated to reflect a correction. 


Current Morning Briefing Logo

Stay CURRENT with our daily newsletter (M-F) and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox for free!

Select list(s) to subscribe to

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Current Publishing, 30 S. Range Line Road, Carmel, IN, 46032, You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact