Fort Wayne’s elected officials will not see pay increases in 2016.
In a final vote that crossed party lines Tuesday, the City Council deadlocked 4-4, failing to receive the five votes necessary to grant the council, Mayor Tom Henry and City Clerk-elect Lana Keesling a 2 percent raise.
Fort Wayne City Council members make $22,279 a year, while the mayor makes $128,593. The city clerk earns $77,946.
The reason some councilmen have supported freezing wages for another year is because Fort Wayne’s elected officials are the highest paid in the state, said Council President John Crawford, R-at large. The bill granting raises passed out of the council’s committee session Dec. 15.
"As I pointed out last week, we did have a lot of discussion a year and a half ago about trying to pay market rate for various positions in the city, and during that discussion, some of the union members pointed out that we were the highest-paid City Council members in Indiana," Crawford said.
"So I did take that to heart, and last year we voted to freeze council and mayor but we did not freeze city clerk," he said. "So this year, I’m proposing that we freeze all of them."
Crawford pointed out that even with the freeze, the Fort Wayne City Council is still the highest paid in the state.
"The idea was, I thought if we froze them for a few years … we may be still be the highest in Indiana, but not by a significant amount, then start raising them again 2 percent a year," Crawford said.
There was some disagreement this time around over whether the council should approve a raise, however.
Councilmen Russ Jehl, R-2nd, Crawford, Marty Bender, R-at large, and John Shoaff, D-at large, voted against the increase. Councilmen Tom Smith, R-1st, Tom Didier, R-3rd, Geoff Paddock, D-5th, and Glynn Hines, D-6th, voted in favor of it. Mitch Harper, R-4th, was absent.
Didier said he felt that elected officials’ salaries are not a political issue.
He noted that the raise would grant council members an additional $454 per year.
"The first four years I was on council, this wasn’t even an issue. It was a non-issue. It was a 3 percent raise, and it wasn’t a big deal," he said.
"Then for some reason, the second term I was in office, it became an issue politically and for what reason, I don’t know why, because I’m going to do my job whether we get this raise or don’t get this raise."