Few Job and salary cuts in 2021 budget leaves $75K deficit in employee compensation
By Erick Johnson
Some 52 Gary employees will receive salary raises in the city’s proposed 2021 budget. It includes very few job and salary cuts, and a $74,920 deficit in employee compensation costs, according to a Crusader analysis of figures released by the city. There’s one challenge—the proposed salary increases may not happen.
There are no salary raises in the 2021 budget for employees in the city’s police and fire departments. Gary’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) this week requested a 3 percent raise and an increase in uniform allowance for the city’s police officers. The request also includes an additional $500 uniform allowance per officer per year.
According to FOP Union President Gregory Wolf, most officers reportedly spend more than $1,000 a year on uniforms and equipment. The FOP proposed cutting probationary officers’ salary by $5,700 for their first year on the force to offset the increases.
A report late Tuesday, October 20 said the raises in the mayor’s proposed budget are on the chopping block, however nothing is final until the council approves the budget before the deadline expires November 2.
The proposed budget includes 5 percent raises for all nine of the city’s councilmen and the corporation counsel, a seven percent raise for the mayor’s chief of staff, and a six percent raise for the city clerk. The city’s human resources director may get the highest of the raises with a 17 percent proposed salary increase.
Altogether, the proposed salary raises will cost the city $80,438. The proposed budget also includes four new positions that will cost taxpayers $129,155. The proposed salary increases, and new positions create a $74,920 deficit despite three proposed salary cuts and four job eliminations totaling $134,673.
The Crusader emailed Acting Controller and Mayor Prince’s Chief of Staff Arlene Colvin, Corporation Counsel Trent McCain, and City Spokesperson Michael Gonzalez to explain the proposed increases. Gonzalez and Colvin did not respond. McCain said the figures were not salary raises but reflected a change in last year’s numbers. When asked a follow-up question to clarify his response, McCain referred the Crusader to Colvin, saying he was not the best person to answer questions.
In a breakdown of the 52 proposed raises, 23 will come from the city clerk’s office, 12 will come from the City Council department, six from the city court, six from Human Resources, four from the Law Department and one from the Mayor’s Office.
The proposed increase for the human resources director, who currently makes $48,410 annually. Under the proposed 2021 budget, the position will receive a 17 percent raise that will increase the salary to $56,835.
The proposed budget also calls for creating four new positions in various departments.
The Clerk’s Office will create a new Deputy Clerk I position that will pay $14,629. The Law Department will hire a paralegal with a $40,000 annual salary. Public Works will create a new Civil Engineer position that pays $60,000 a year. In the city’s Commission for Women department, a new custodial position will pay $14,526 a year.
Some departments that may get raises will also have job positions eliminated.
In the mayor’s office, the administrative assistant reception position that paid $40,000 annually will be eliminated. In the Law Department, the Assistant City Attorney II position ($50,000 annually) and the operations manager position ($7,833 annually) will be eliminated under the new budget. Public Works will get rid of its custodian position that paid $12,110 annually.
The three salary cuts under the proposed budget will come from the city council, where the office manager will make $45,000 instead of $47,880. In the city clerk’s office, the H.R. Specialist will be paid half of the current $33,700 salary. In the city court, the probation officer will see a 25 percent drop in the current $25,000 salary.
The deficit raises questions as to how Gary will pay for the salary raises or if they are necessary as the city struggles to cope with the costs of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last May, Mayor Jerome Prince fired the city’s controller, accusing her of being unable to give a full picture of the city’s financial condition.
Last month, Prince requested a $30,000 increase for City Spokesperson Michael Gonzalez, a contractor and resident of Lake Station whose current $45,000 salary is paid by the city and the Gary Housing Authority. Gonzalez’s proposed increased is not on the 2021 budget because he is a contractor.