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Salary bump proposal for Indianapolis City-County Councilors moves forward to next meeting

Posted at 4:58 PM, Nov 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 16:58:34-05

INDIANAPOLIS — After years of discussion and failed votes, the Indianapolis City-County Council is poised for a salary increase in the next two years.

A council committee voted Tuesday night to move a proposal forward that would give councilors their first raise since 2002.

If the proposal passes, the new salary would go into effect on April 1, 2020.

The 2020 salary for a councilor would be $21,482.34, and the 2021 salary would be $25,043.12.

The 2021 salary would be more than double councilors’ current salary of $11,400.

Many on the council have pushed for such an increase for years but were held up by a lack of support among Republicans and a few Democrats.

“At no point will it be the right time to discuss this,” Councilor Blake Johnson, D-District 12, said. “At no point will the politics be perfect for us to discuss this. It wasn't right four years ago, it wasn't right a few months ago and it wasn't right this time. I think because of the politics of it all, the inclination will probably be tonight to retreat to the worst kind of craven political theater.”

Johnson went on to say that he will support the measure because the current salary doesn’t allow some people to run for council, because they can’t afford it.

Indianapolis, like some other cities across the country, has part-time councilors.

“Serving on the Indianapolis City Council requires that you be retired, self-employed, independently wealthy, an executive at your organization, or have a spouse who fits one of those profiles,” Johnson said. “Far too often, those without the flexibilities are not granted a seat at this table.”

The proposal passed the Rules and Public Policy Committee Tuesday night along party lines, 6-2.

Despite the apparent support among Democrats, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is not in support of the pay increase and said he will veto it.

“The City-County Council has long been comprised of public servants that are generous with their time and energy in order to make Indianapolis a better place for all,” Hogsett said in a statement. “While recent conversations about updating long-stagnant Council compensation are understandable, I have significant concerns about the substance and timing of this proposed change. If passed, I would exercise my veto authority.”

The council needs a simple majority to pass a resolution, but a two-thirds majority to override a mayor’s veto.

The two Republicans at the committee, Jeff Coats, District 5 and Michael McQuillen, District 4, voted against the proposal.
“This is other people's money,” Coats said. “This is not our money. When I ran for office four years ago, nobody forced me. I did the math with my wife. We figured out we can make this work just the same as when I ran for Lawrence City Council eight years ago. I don't think anybody forced anyone to run for office this year or four years ago that's on this current council. Everybody makes decisions the best that they can.”

Seven members of the public spoke out Tuesday evening about the potential pay raise, all in support.

“It is very clear this council is grossly underpaid for the time and work that is required to be put in for quality representation to the constituents of this city,” said Rhea Cain, the president of the Indianapolis League of Women Voters.

Bart Brown, the former CFO of the council, said the pay increase will cost $360,000 for a full year, and $270,000 if the increase is staggered, as the current proposal calls for.

He said it shouldn’t have an effect on the 2020 budget, passed by the council last month.

The proposal will go to the full council on Dec. 9.

Use the map below to explore Indianapolis councilors' pay compared to other cities in Indiana and across the country.