The Carmel City Council unanimously approved the 2018 city budget Oct. 16, which includes pay raises but likely no tax increases.
Almost every department has increases in spending, which includes new positions and funding for community events and organizations such as the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, which opens Nov. 18 along with the ice skating rink, named The Ice at Center Green.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard received a pay raise, although perhaps not as big as he first proposed. In the preliminary budget, there was $60,000 included for a possible pay raise for Brainard, who only received a 2 percent cost of living increase in 2017. Brainard had said that a market survey showed that his position was underpaid compared to comparable cities, but such an increase would mean Brainard would be paid more than the mayor of Indianapolis and the governor of Indiana. This comes after Brainard asked the council last year to consider a $50,000 pay raise for 2017. The council rejected the proposal and this year compromised with a 6.55 percent increase instead of the more than 40 percent pay bump originally proposed.
At the Oct. 16 meeting, city councilor Ron Carter apologized to Brainard for the council not approving a larger pay raise. Brainard thanked the council and said he’s happy with the pay increase, which puts his annual salary at $139,052. He remains the state’s second-highest paid mayor after Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who receives $142,094 annually.
The city judge, clerk-treasurer and the city council all received 3 percent cost of living increases for 2018. The judge and clerk-treasurer received 2 percent raises for 2017, but the council received a 15 percent pay bump last year. The judge and clerk-treasurer are the highest paid in the state for their elected positions, with salaries of $127,099 and $109,951, respectively. City council members will make $20,448 a year for 2018.
Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider said the 15 percent increase last year was because the council went several years without a pay raise — including cost of living — when the Great Recession was at its peak. Rider noted that all cost of living raises are up for 2018 and that more than half of all city employees will receive a 6.55 percent pay raise because of years of service and/or to get closer to market rates.
Overall, the city’s budget is $141 million, which is 7.6 percent more than the 2017 budget. The city’s tax rate is expected to remain at 78 cents per $100 of assessed value, which Brainard said is one of the lowest in the state.