FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A Fort Wayne City Councilman has asked a state legislator to front a change in state law that would allow bodies like city council to reduce the salaries of elected officials.
Councilman Jason Arp, a freshman Republican who represents Fort Wayne’s 4th District, on Thursday drafted a letter to Indiana State Representative Christopher Judy requesting that the Indiana General Assembly change state code to allow the legislative body of cities to reduce the salaries of elected officials. The code currently provides for an increase in salaries, but not a reduction.
In the letter, Arp wrote that the salary of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry should not be dramatically above the levels paid to other mayors of major cities in the state of Indiana. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s salary is $95,000, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s salary is $104,500, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke’s salary is $100,500 and Mayor Henry’s salary is $128,593. Mayor Henry’s salary is 28.5% higher than the average of the three other mayors’ salaries, according to Arp.
Arp argued in the letter that the Fort Wayne City Council is not given the flexibility by state law to correct this disparity. In his letter, he wrote he feels it is “important to fairly compensate the Mayor,” but he did not specifically indicate why he feels the salary of Mayor Henry, who is a Democrat, should be reduced.
Arp told NewsChannel 15 that a fellow councilman brought the salary discrepancy issue up to him.
“City council should have the ability statutorily to make adjustments in the salaries of elected officials,” Arp told NewsChannel 15. “I’m asking the state legislature to give us that flexibility.”
According to a portion of Indiana Code IC 36-4-7-2: “The compensation of an elected city officer may not be changed in the year for which it is fixed nor may it be reduced below the amount fixed for the previous year.”
In the letter, Arp proposed to change this portion of the state code to: “The compensation of an elected city officer may not be changed in the year for which it is fixed.”
John Perlich, city spokesman, offered the following statement in response to Arp’s plea:
The City of Fort Wayne was not contacted in advance of this information being supplied to elected officials and the media. Mayor Henry’s Administration is committed to being transparent with members of City Council and the media. At a time when our community is experiencing positive momentum and investments like never before, we’re not sure of the motives behind this letter. The mayor’s salary sets the overall framework for salaries in city government. It’s our duty to hire and retain the best talent possible to serve taxpayers and meet the needs of a growing community. It’s one of the reasons why we continue to receive national recognition as a best-run city.”
This isn’t the first time Arp has spearheaded a major issue. Arp, who ran on a campaign to save taxpayer dollars that ultimately defeated Public Safety Director Rusty York for the 4th District seat, authored the controversial proposal to eliminate the business personal property tax. That bill was voted down.