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 Knightstown Town Council Approves Pay Increases

January 2, 2008 - The Knightstown Town Council has approved four-percent pay raises for most town employees, a 13-percent increase for one and a nearly 60-percent salary boost for the town's clerk-treasurer.

At its December 20 meeting, the council passed Ordinance 11-2007, a salary ordinance that sets pay levels for 2008, on second and third readings. Clerk-Treasurer Judy Haines' yearly pay will go from $20,037 to $30,000; the salary of Linda Glenn, the town's utility bookkeeper and assistant office manager - and wife of then-Town Council President David Glenn - will rise 13 percent, from $30,000 to $34,000; and all other town employees will get four-percent raises.

The new salary ordinance passed by a 4-0 vote. David Glenn, who voted in favor of the salary ordinance on first reading in November, was hospitalized and did not attend the December 20 meeting.

The raises, particularly the one for Haines' position, drew comments and questions during the public comments portion of the meeting that preceded the council's vote. Knightstown resident Jim Hope said he was not opposed to raises, but thought some were "just a little bit out of proportion."

Council member Steve Nelson said town employees' pay was "inadequate" compared to similar communities. "If we continue to try to run this town the way that the town should be run," he said, "we have to address those types of things. … Over a two-year period now, we've tried to get those back up to a spot where we could get qualified people to do the qualified job that we expect."

Regarding the proposed 60-percent raise for Haines, council member Cort Swincher said the previous clerk-treasurer had received insurance like other town employees. "Now, the position may be $30,000, and it's not with benefits," he said. "So, it may (be) a 60-percent pay increase, but it (is) not a benefit … increase, which everybody knows is a huge cost when it comes to paying people to do a job."

Hope asked why the previous clerk-treasurer had received an insurance benefit, but Haines does not. Swincher said Haines had not asked for the benefit, so it had not been provided, which prompted Hope to ask why Haines had not wanted the insurance.

Haines explained that she already had other insurance and would be eligible for Medicare next year. "I'm a part-time employee," she said. "Part-time employees are really not entitled to insurance unless it's an issue taken before the town council. I didn't choose to do that."

Swincher said he did not know why the previous clerk-treasurer, Linda Stearns, had received insurance coverage from the town. "That was before my time," he said. "I don't know why, because my opinion was … if you're part time, you don't get benefits. But that position, at that time, got benefits. I don't know why. I didn't ask. That's how it was."

At this point, Haines, who was clearly affected emotionally by the discussion, interjected and said she wanted to speak on her own behalf. "With the knowledge that I have, and with the experience that I have, and my background I have in finance, my ability to work with people, I am entitled to twice what I'm being offered," she said. "The town doesn't have that money. But I will not apologize to you or anyone else for compensation for a job well done."

Hope said he wasn't saying that she didn't deserve some raise. He noted, however, that her position was an elected office and that she was aware of the pay level when she took the job. Under state law, once raised, the pay for an elected office cannot be lowered.

Nelson said that even with the pay increases, Knightstown would still be paying less than some towns of similar size pay. "And you've got to remember that if we want to have a clerk-treasurer that's going to continue to do the job we need done here in Knightstown, we have to pay somebody. … If we don't give them the proper amount of money, then we're going to get somebody less than what we want.

"So all we're doing," Nelson continued, "is saying, 'Let's pay the best that we can pay so we can attract somebody that will be capable of doing the job,' instead of having to go through six and seven audits through the year trying to catch up on what we haven't done in the past 10 years."

Knightstown resident Terry Guerin also addressed the council on the issue of the pay increases. Guerin, the independent council member-elect who defeated Republican incumbent Glenn in the fall election for the Ward 4 council seat, said he had received more calls about the 60-percent pay hike for Haines than the ones for Linda Glenn and the other employees.

Guerin said he understood the need to set pay at a level that will draw good, qualified candidates, and that he thought Haines was doing a good job as clerk-treasurer. With the disclosure that Haines was not receiving the insurance benefit that Stearns had gotten, Guerin said he thought the public was entitled to know the value of the insurance benefit so a better comparison could be made with the prior clerk-treasurer's pay.

As for the other raises, Guerin said he was not opposed to the four-percent increase for town employees, particularly since they hadn’t gotten raises last year. He said he didn’t know enough about Linda Glenn's responsibilities to comment on her 13-percent raise.

Guering noted that the council was approving these raises before the state had approved the town's 2008 budget. As one of three new council members taking office at the first of the year, he said he’d like the council's assurance that the town would have money for the pay increases so that they wouldn't later find themselves in the position of having to reduce them.

(Additional coverage from the December 20 regular monthly meeting and the December 27 year-end meeting will published in next week's Banner. - Ed.)


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