MICHIGAN CITY — The same Michigan City councilmen who cut Mayor Ron Meer's 20-percent salary increase request in half last year are now discussing more than doubling their own compensation.
"They thought that was too drastic, yet this is better than a 100-percent increase," Meer said.
Among the items contained in the proposed city budget is health insurance for council members.
Meer said the city’s cost for each individual policy would be $15,000 annually in addition to their salary of more than $13,000 a year.
The proposed 2018 budget was presented Tuesday night by City Council President Chris Schwanke, who stressed health insurance was included strictly for discussion after some council members expressed an interest in having it.
He also said it would be optional.
Schwanke said he’s not sure how he’s going to vote, but more communities are providing council members with health insurance, and better compensation would be an incentive for more people to seek the position.
"It certainly helps to draw a better class of candidates," Schwanke said.
Councilman Tim Bietry called the idea a slap in the face to part-time city employees who don’t receive health benefits. Being on the council is also a part-time job, he said.
Beitry also said he felt embarrassed when spending increases sought by department heads often get slashed without discussion, yet a proposed doubling of benefits for the council finds its way into public debate.
"I just think it’s beyond the scope of what we should be considering," Bietry said.
The proposed budget also includes a 1.5 percent pay raise for all city employees and council members.
Schwanke said changes could be made in the proposed budget during the final review process prior to a likely council vote on Oct. 16.