FORT WAYNE — City employees have a good chance of seeing 2 percent raises next year after four years of seeing nothing or 1 percent increases.
City Council members Tuesday voted 8-0 to approve a 2 percent raise for members of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents officers with ranks of sergeant and above. Councilman Marty Bender, R-at large, abstained; he is a deputy chief on the Fort Wayne police force.
In most years, the FOP raise would mean that 2 percent raises for other city employees would follow. And true to form, just before giving final passage to the FOP increase, the council voted unanimously to introduce ordinances giving 2 percent raises to nonunion city employees and public safety employees. Those ordinances could be discussed next week and get final passage the week after.
Councilman John Shoaff, D-at large, the council’s finance chairman, said that despite lower inflation rates, city workers have still fallen behind. But the raises – should they happen – are also not a sign the city’s budget has turned around.
“It’s a sign things are not desperate yet,” Shoaff said.
If anything, said Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, it’s a sign that the council recognizes things may get worse.
“It looks increasingly that it may be getting harder to have anything in 2014 and beyond,” he said. “It may be very difficult to give any pay increases beyond this budget cycle.”
Of course, the raises for anyone beyond the FOP are not assured: Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, said each request will be weighed on its own and within the context of the entire budget.
“When it comes to pay, I hear a lot from constituents about people who are struggling, and they compare it to their own situation,” Harper said. “You talk to folks who lost their jobs, and they want to know what decisions the City Council is making and how their tax dollars are being used when they’re facing the precipice.”
Council members will conduct a second hearing on a request to vacate a right of way in the Belle Vista neighborhood.
Patrick Hipskind is asking the city to give up the right of way it owns to extend Belle Vista Boulevard 1,300 feet west, but several residents in the neighborhood in Waynedale strongly objected, including Billie Rykard, president of the Belle Vista/Allendale Neighborhood Association, who said she only found out about the proposal and the public hearing Monday. Council members voted unanimously to close the legal public hearing and conduct a second courtesy hearing in two weeks to give residents a chance to weigh in.
The council also voted to move forward with a property tax abatement for a $2 million development near Dupont Hospital for Ophthalmology Consultants.
The question had been before the council in July but failed to get the five votes needed for passage when two councilmen voted “no,” two abstained and one was absent.
This time, all members were present, and the preliminary steps for the tax break passed with six votes. A public hearing on the question will be Sept. 25.
Council members also voted to push back for two weeks a discussion on hiring a consultant to study the city’s practices on hiring contractors and whether those practices adversely affect women- and minority-owned firms.