Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 9, 2013

Coordinating council denied bonuses

Mayor casts deciding vote in proposal costing $1,800.

By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight cast the deciding vote to deny employees of the Kokomo/Howard County Government Coordinating Council a bonus for this year.

During a meeting Thursday of the policy board of the HCGCC, outgoing Director Larry Ives said the employees didn’t receive a pay the bonus paid to Howard County employees. If it had been approved, the bonus would have been paid by the end of the year.

“I ask that you vote this down,” Goodnight said following Ives’ request. “This is no offense to the employees or the work they do. This is bad government.”

Goodnight said the average wage in Indiana is $29,000 and the salaries of the HCGCC staff are double the average taxpayer in Howard County earns.

“Put the money back into making a better quality of life for residents,” he said.

Richard Miller, a member of the policy board and president of the Howard County Council, said the bulk of the money that the HCGCC receives is from the federal government. Howard County and Kokomo will each provide $27,000 toward the funding of the agency in 2014.

Ives argued salaries for council members were set a decade ago, and haven’t been raised.

“There has been one $500 bonus since 2007,”Ives said. “There is no additional cost to the city or county.”

Ives added the bonuses would cost $1,800.

Goodnight remained unswayed, stating the city doesn’t use its federal funding to pay wages. Its $850,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds are spent on local projects, Goodnight said.

“People in this community pay federal taxes,” Goodnight said. “Three of the four people in full-time jobs are paid double the state average.

“This would send a bad message to taxpayers,” he said. “No one leaves a government job.”

Ives said the staff members are highly trained professionals and Miller said employees have left Howard County government to take higher paying jobs in the private sector.

With the vote deadlocked on the 2013 bonus, Goodnight cast the deciding no vote, joining Planning Director Greg Sheline, Tom Miklik, a member of the Kokomo Common Council, and Les Ellison, a member of the Howard County Council.

In the 2014 budget proposal, Ives included an $800 and $400 bonus for full and part-time employees to be paid by July, again matching the bonus that will be paid to county workers. There is no change proposed in salaries.

Not all members of the policy board were supportive of the 2014 bonuses, and Miklik said he could support $400 and $200 bonuses next year.

“A lot of people in the community have not received a raise,” Goodnight said. “There are many working two jobs.”

The funding for the 2014 bonuses remains in the budget, but a motion by Miller means the policy board will revisit the issue again by June before they are paid out.