Wayne County Council plans to again improve employee salaries during 2024.

Consultant Waggoner, Irwin, Scheele and Associates of Muncie is comparing county salaries with comparable positions in other counties and the private sector. It then provides a midpoint for each position.

During its Oct. 4 meeting, council addressed employee raises for 2024. Council members propose raising salaries to the 2023 external midpoints, which will be different for each position, then adding an across-the-board 2% raise from that level. Elected officials would only receive the 2% raise. Council members unanimously approved that plan.

Kim Clauser, the county’s human resources director, will now figure exactly how much that will cost the county. Tony Gillam, chair of council’s finance committee, said the midpoint raises are in the ballpark of $1.1 million, with each percentage point of the 2% raise costing about $220,000, putting the total at about $1.6 million.

Gillam proposed that council offset that amount by lowering its one-time money in the 2024 budget from the standard $3 million to $1.5 million. Council uses one-time money for emergencies and for projects.

“I think that is doable,” Gillam said.

Council expects to receive about $900,000 more tax money in 2024 than in 2023, about $650,000 more from property taxes and about $250,000 more from income taxes. Council has trimmed budget requests line-by-line in many instances as the budget has developed. Without the salary increases, the more than $34.5 million general fund budget for 2024 was $704,640 more than 2023’s general fund adopted budget of $33,842,232 with the one-time money still set at $3 million.

“Everybody needs to live within their budgets,” Gillam said of 2024.

Council has previously used its consultant’s midpoints to adjust employee salaries. Last year, however, council provided employees a 6.5% across-the-board raise.

Council President Beth Leisure made the motion to support the proposed salary increases.

“I’m very comfortable with the midpoint and 2%,” she said.

Commissioner Jeff Plasterer told council it’s important to remind employees that commissioners did not increase employee health insurance contributions for 2024 despite adding some benefits.

Clauser will now provide a final number about how much the raises will actually cost prior to council’s Oct. 18 workshop session. Council will then adjust the one-time money line item and finalize the budget’s approval. 

Early during the Oct. 4 meeting, council members unanimously approved the preliminary budget that’s posted on the state’s Gateway website at https://budgetnotices.in.gov/ReportMaster.aspx?uid=1690&yr=2024&mode=ALL. That nearly $51 million budget includes more than $38 million in the general fund.

The approval came after just one member of the public, Howard Price, spoke during the budget’s public hearing. Price asked that the 2024 budget include money to repair the G Street bridge in Richmond, saying it’s an eyesore and deteriorating curbs pose dangers.

Plasterer advised Price that preliminary work for the bridge’s replacement has been proceeding, with the replacement scheduled among the county’s 2024 bridge projects.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 11 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.