Berne councilman takes a symbolic stand on pay hike

    A first-year member of Berne City Council took an admittedly symbolic stand against big government on Monday evening in voting against a proposed pay increase for  himself and other councilmen.
    Republican Phil Provost, who joined the panel in January after upsetting incumbent at-large councilman Mike Poulson in the November general election, had made fiscal conservatism and smaller government a part of his election campaign. He took the opportunity to reinforce that platform this week.
    Mayor Bill McKean, near the end of the regular city council meeting, asked the panel to authorize city attorney Jim Beitler to prepare ordinances that would give pay increases in 2013 to all city employees and elected officials.
    McKean proposed a 1 percent pay hike plus a $500 cash payment to all fulltime city workers, the mayor and the clerk-treasurer. He also recommended a $250 annual salary hike for members of the city council. Indiana code allows city council members to reduce any wage hikes    recommended by the mayor, but not to increase the recommended amount.
    Provost, who apparently had advance warning of McKean's proposal, said he supported the pay increases for employees, the mayor and the clerk-treasurer. "But I'm saying 'no' to a city council salary raise."
    The first-term councilman said pay hikes for council members rightfully had been omitted for several years because of a sluggish economy. "And what has changed? The fundamentals haven't changed, as far as the economy goes. The bubble hasn't burst yet," Provost said. "In 2008 a lot of people voted for change. Well, if we're really going to get change, we need to get government out of the way a little more."
    Provost said his vote against the council pay increase "is a principled stand I'm willing to take. It's a small step, but I think it's symbolic. It's saying we are committed to earning the people's trust."
    Council voted 4-1 to authorize the preparation of legislation spelling out McKean's recommended 2013 pay increases.