City council OKs first reading of pay increases for officials, employees

If two proposed ordinances pass one more reading, the city’s employees and elected and appointed officials will receive pay increases at the start of 2023.

During a meeting Monday night, the Seymour City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance to give Mayor Matt Nicholson, Clerk-Treasurer Darrin Boas and the seven city councilmen a 3% raise and an ordinance to give appointed positions and city workers a 5% bump.

Both ordinances will be up for final approval at the next council meeting, set for 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at city hall.

Councilman Jerry Hackney of the finance committee presented both ordinances.

After no questions arose form the council or public, Hackney asked President Dave Earley if he had a change to make to the ordinance setting salaries for elected officials. As he has in the past, Earley recommended only giving the 3% raises to the mayor and clerk-treasurer, not the seven council members.

“I’ve always felt like we’re compensated well enough,” Earley said.

Councilman Bret Cunningham asked Earley if he had compared the pay rates to other municipalities similar in size to Seymour, and Earley said he hadn’t.

“I just don’t believe in giving ourselves a raise,” Earley said.

Hackney said the rates are comparable, to which Cunningham said Seymour is “a little on the low side.”

A motion to revise the ordinance failed 4-3 with Cunningham, Drew Storey, Matt Wheeler and Chad Hubbard voting against it and Hackney, Earley and Seth Davidson casting yay votes.

Then a motion to pass the ordinance on first reading for 3% raises for the mayor, clerk-treasurer and councilmen passed 4-3. Storey, Wheeler, Hackney and Hubbard voted in favor of it, while Cunningham, Davidson and Earley voted nay.

While the first reading of the ordinance to give 5% raises to the city’s employees and appointed officials passed 7-0, it came following some discussion.

Cunningham asked why 5% was proposed versus the typical 3%, which has been awarded each year since at least 2017.

“I get inflation, but inflation will obviously impact everyone,” he said.

Nicholson said after he spoke to Boas, they agreed the city could work with 5% raises. They had looked at 3%, 5% and 9%. On the high end, Nicholson said the city couldn’t sustain that and next year would have to look at cuts or doing something different, but at 5%, that could be sustained long term and still work toward the 180-workday goals.

“With inflation being 8.63% month after month, it’s why we chose more than the normal 3%,” Nicholson said.

Boas said with staffing challenges, it’s about trying to somewhat stay close to market to compete.

“A lot of places are giving more,” he said.

Cunningham said the city is fortunate to pay its employees “pretty well,” and he wound up making a motion to take the pay raise down to 3%. It was seconded, but when a vote was taken, it failed 6-1 with Cunningham casting the lone yay.

Then a vote was taken to pass the ordinance on first reading.

Before he cast his vote, Storey said he was proud of the council for taking the extra effort during a recent workshop to look at the budget and have “a lot of healthy discussion,” and he expressed appreciation to Boas for answering questions at the workshop and keeping good tabs on the city’s finances.

“It has been quite a contentious few weeks, but I think that that kind of just shows that you in fact have seven councilmen up here and with these two guys’ leadership (Boas and Nicholson), as well, it looks like I think we all gave this ordinance a real hard shakedown,” Storey said. “I know that it brought all of us, I think, a little closer together as I hear us talking through it, although a couple of us wanted to be at blows at times, so I absolutely am a yes.”

The other six councilmen also voted yes to move the ordinance on to a second reading at the next meeting.