Berne pay increases given approval

    With Mayor Bill McKean absent, Berne City Council on Monday approved the mayor's recommendations for 2013 pay increases for city employees and elected officials.
    The votes, as anticipated, were not unanimous.
    McKean, during the July 11 council meeting, proposed a 1 percent pay hike plus a $500 cash payment for all fulltime city workers, the mayor and the clerk-treasurer, effective Jan. 1, 2013. Included in that recommendation were clothing allowances for the city police, fire and police reserve members. The mayor 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.
    Council member Phil Provost on Monday stuck to a position he had held during two previous council discussions on the proposed pay hikes and was the lone dissenting vote in a 3-1 decision to approve McKean's recommended wage and salary hikes for members of the city council. Councilman Curtis Wurster was absent.
    Provost previously had voiced his support for the pay increases for fulltime city employees, the mayor and the clerk-treasurer. "But I'm saying 'no' to a city council salary raise," he said earlier.
    The first-term Republican councilman had said his vote against the council pay increase was 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."
    On Monday, Provost said he could support the pay hike under different circumstances.
    "The 27th amendment to the U.S. Constitution says the U.S. Congress cannot give itself a pay raise until after the next election. I would not be opposed to something like that," said Provost. "That way the people can decide if we've earned it (a pay raise). It gives the people more of a say."
    Councilman Mark Wynn was also hesitant in supporting the pay hike. "It's been three or four years since we've done anything (to increase council salaries) and this may be the last time I vote for (a pay hike), but it's time," he said.
    An ordinance giving fulltime city employees, the clerk-treasurer and mayor pay increases next year was approved 4-0.