GOSHEN — It came down to a Survivor-style vote as Goshen City Council moved toward a six-figure salary for the mayor’s position Tuesday.
Council members voted 4-2 to raise the mayor’s pay by $254 biweekly, which would bring it up to just over $100,000 a year. Councilman Brett Weddell suggested the amendment to the ordinance that sets the 2020 compensation for elected officials, which would otherwise set the mayor’s pay at $93,418.
He said the mayor is a very public role and he wants to compensate the position accordingly.
“The mayor is the face of our city, through good times and bad times,” he said. “That position takes heat, that position is front and center, whether it’s record flooding, whether it’s discussions about homeless. And I think that position is justifiable and warranted just a little bit more.”
Council passed a series of compensation measures that give a 2.5 percent increase to elected officials, fire department personnel and police department employees. They passed the ordinances on the first round of voting only, leaving a final decision for later this month.
They cast their votes on paper ballots, which were handed to the clerk-treasurer and read aloud, rather than by roll call at the request of Councilman Adam Scharf. He invoked the little-used procedural rule, saying he didn’t want to be influenced by which way a voice vote was leaning.
“I’m thinking that I don’t know how to vote, and how you folks vote, I think, is potentially gonna inform how I vote,” he said.
He and Councilwoman Julia King voted against the pay raise. King remarked that, as in the past, she would oppose the pay increase after looking at similar-sized towns, the median income in the area and other salaries within city government.
“Just like a coach doesn’t get paid more than NFL players, even if they’re excellent,” she said. “We have an excellent mayor, and it’s not the same as being the city attorney or a long-time fire chief who acts in dangerous situations on a regular basis.”
She added that she also wasn’t convinced by many of the arguments used for increasing the pay, such as applying a corporate model to city government.
“It’s different from other businesses where you’re trying to attract someone outside of a range because, really, you’re looking at home-grown people who are committed to this community,” she said. “Somebody’s not going to open up the paper and go, ‘Oh, there’s a mayor position over there and the pay’s just a little more.’”
Councilman Doug Nisley said he supported a raise more for the position than the person, and that he did want to make it attractive to retired company CEOs.
“The reason that the coaches don’t get paid more than the players is the players put more of their body on the line than the coach does,” he added.
Council last looked at increasing the mayor’s compensation during the budget process last year. In December, they ultimately voted 4-3 against raising the mayor’s $86,000 salary by $5,000, plus the 3 percent increase given to city employees for 2019.
By comparison, they heard at the time that Warsaw gives its mayor $68,000 a year, Elkhart pays $89,000 and South Bend pays $110,000.
Later in the meeting Tuesday, council voted to form a committee to look at city employee salaries. They discussed the idea after Scharf remarked that, while serving as the boss of 270 employees might make a six-figure salary reasonable for a mayor, there might be several dozen more city employees for whom an equal or greater pay bump could be warranted.