CROWN POINT | A 3 percent across-the-board raise for full-time Crown Point city workers stayed in the 2014 budget as talks continued on Monday.
The City Council met in special session and approved a first reading of the proposed $22.2 million budget which included the raise. Final approval is set for later this month.
Councilman Mark Schweitzer, R-at large, supported pay hikes for city workers but raised concerns over continued granting of across-the-board increases over a span of years.
The gap between higher and lower salaries would continue to grow over time, with upper pay scales eventually growing out of reach.
"A $10,000 gap today becomes a $20,000 difference some day," Schweitzer said.
"We need to come up with a formula," he said. Raises scaled to salary ranges or lump-sum increases were two possibilities.
Councilwoman Laura Sauerman, R-4th, agreed.
"A 3 percent across-the-board raise over time is going to become exponentially unsustainable," Sauerman said.
The council takes its role as stewards of city spending seriously, Sauerman said. "A 3 percent raise is very generous in today's times."
Councilman Bill Feder, D-at large, voted against approving the budget over concerns a 3 percent raise combined with a 1.5 percent increase in the Public Employee Retirement Fund benefit granted full-time city workers is out of line with raises seen in the private sector.
Clerk-treasurer Patti Olson said state officials this year mandated the 1.5 percent hike in the Public Employees Retirement Fund benefit.
"It's not a raise on the employees," Olson said. "It's what we have to do."
An across-the-board raise for workers in 2014 would come after several years in which full-timers were instead awarded stipends, or one-time payouts of $1,000 in place of a raise.
Next year provides the best opportunity in years to offer a pay increase, Greg Guerrettaz, the city's financial adviser, told officials in an earlier budget discussion. The opportunity comes after Lake County adopted a local option income tax and a state imposed cap was lifted, as well as an increase in state-alloted motor vehicle highway money, he said.