Lawrence Common Council discusses raises for elected officials


The Lawrence Common Council met Oct. 19 in the Public Assembly Room of the Lawrence Government Center. The council discussed the approval of a 5 percent raise for all elected officials, a debate that has been in discussion as part of the annual budgeting process since early July. The council ultimately decided to table the discussion for a later meeting. 

Tyrrell Giles, who represents District 1, said he would prefer the amount he would receive from the pay increase be put toward community enrichment. 

“With that increase, it’s what, a few hundred (dollars per year)? I would rather put that towards a new playground or park upkeep,” Giles said.

City Controller Tyler Douthit said a pay increase would draw “quality candidates” to serve the city.

“The city has comparatively lower paid officials than most others — Fishers, Greenfield, Carmel,” Douthit said. “When it comes to city government, you get what you pay for.”

Tom Shevlot, who represents District 5, said the pay should not be an influence on those looking to serve. 

“No one should want to do this for money,” Shevlot said. “‘Good’ people should not want (to serve) just for the pay.”

Deputy Mayor David Hofmann said pay raises for elected officials were needed. 

“In many ways, our elected officials are no different than the rest of our employees and even the citizens they serve. They have families, bills, expenses such as groceries, gas, car payments and mortgages,” Hofmann said. “I believe that reasonable, modest, predictable pay raises should be expected for them, just like other employees receive. While it’s true that nobody should ever enter public service for the paycheck, it’s also true that a fair living wage should be provided, in keeping with the salaries of elected officials in neighboring communities.” 

Pay increases for elected officials have been a point of debate in the past for the City of Lawrence. 

“We hope to avoid an untenable situation like from 2016 to 2020, where the mayor did not receive a pay raise during those four years,” Hofmann said. “Next year will be the second year that Mayor (Steve) Collier will not receive a pay raise if the council decides to deny raises for elected officials. He is the only elected official to be in this condition.”

President At-Large Lisa Chavis proposed lowering the 5 percent increase to 3 percent to negate the necessity for an even higher salary increase in the future. 

“If we lowered the proposed percentage to 3 percent, that would keep us from having to approve an increase of 10 or 15 percent in coming years,” Chavis said. 

The council did not vote on the matter and will revisit it the next meeting.

The next Lawrence Common Council meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 7.