Salary increase for county council slips by

Members of the Elkhart County Council mistakenly gave themselves a pay raise, but leaders say the error will be corrected next month.

Posted on Oct. 1, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Oct. 1, 2012 at 5:45 p.m.

GOSHEN — Amid the hustle and bustle of approving the county’s budget for 2013, members of the Elkhart County Council mistakenly gave themselves pay raises, an oversight that president John Letherman said will be corrected next month.

Next year’s budget includes an extra $752 for each of the seven councilmen, but Letherman said the addition was a misunderstanding. He plans to ask for $5,264 to be removed from the budget at the council’s next meeting in November.

At Monday’s Elkhart County Board of Commissioners meeting, board president Terry Rodino questioned the salary increase, pointing out that the county council had asked department heads to flatline their budget requests for 2013.

“Everyone seemed to follow the request of the council with the exception of the council, it sounds like,” Rodino said.

The county’s upcoming spending plan, approved Friday, included more than $2 million in cuts and an extra $9,017 added to the county council’s budget. Letherman said he never intended for a salary increase to slip by. He did intend, however, to include an extra $3,753 to cover additional duties pay for the councilmen, covering time they spend serving on committees, working with department heads and traveling to meet with state legislators. The council also decided to reinstate its monthly meeting in March for 2013.

“I thought restoring additional duties pay to pre-2011 levels was appropriate, but there was absolutely no desire to raise salaries whatsoever,” said Letherman, adding that the council’s workload has grown over the past few years as the economy has become more fragile.

The county trimmed budgets by 10 percent across the board in 2011. The cuts included the county council’s salaries, pay for additional duties, travel and sustenance, Letherman said. Those reductions remained in place in the 2012 budget.

“We cut the daylights out of everything in the 2011 and 2012 budgets to get a 10 percent reduction,” Letherman said. “We didn’t have anywhere to cut but salaries, travel and additional duties pay for the council. We don’t have line items for gasoline, insurance and telephone like all of the other departments.”

The county council’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 10.

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