City employees would each see a $2,000 increase in their paychecks in 2023 should a multi-million dollar spending plan for next year be approved this fall by members of the city council.
The council met in special session Monday evening at City Hall, 201 Vigo St., to discuss the proposed budget with Mayor Joe Yochum and the various city department heads.
The mayor kickstarted discussions by announcing that instead of including a percentage increase for city employees, he opted for a $2,000-per-year across the board increase for all.
In the hot seat at the time was city fire chief Brett Bobe, who said even though employees like himself, ones who make more money per year, will see a lower-percentage increase, it means a larger increase for rookie firefighters, thereby making those positions more attractive as the city looks to recruit more public safety officers.
City council president Tim Salters said it “benefits everybody that way.”
“People at a lower level will see more of a (percentage) raise than those at the higher level, but it makes those entry level positions more attractive.
“And that’s what we need to be doing.”
City police chief Jon Hillenbrand, too, said he was happy with the $2,000 per year increase; making entry-level positions at the Vincennes Police Department more attractive is more vital now than ever.
“The number of applicants has decreased nationwide, certainly statewide,” Hillenbrand told the council. “And we’ve certainly felt it here.”
That said, Hillenbrand said he’s been pleased with the “quality” of candidates that have applied.
“We’ve been very lucky,” he said. “But we don’t have the numbers, no one does.
“People just don’t want to get into law enforcement these days.”
City council members did, however, reiterate their intent to bolster first-responder pay even more in 2024.
The cities of Vincennes and Bicknell joined with county elected officials this spring in establishing a Local Income Tax rate at .5% to fund public safety efforts.
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Funding will begin coming in in 2023, but revenue from next year will go toward nearly two years’ worth of payments to Good Samaritan in the implementation of a new EMS system, one which launched on July 1.
Elected officials agreed that, moving forward, the $800,000 annual cost of EMS will come off the top of LIT revenue; what’s left will be distributed appropriately to the taxing entities, based upon population.
Hillenbrand — was well as many police chiefs before him — has said that the police department hemorrhages officers, often losing them, once trained, to more lucrative and attractive offers elsewhere.
During discussions of the LIT, Hillenbrand brought forth data that shows the city significantly behind in rookie pay, sometimes as much as $10,000 per year, or more.
The proposed raise of $2,000 per year “isn’t enough to bridge the gap,” pointed out councilman Brian Grove, but Hillenbrand said police officers are keeping an eye on the long game.
They believe council members, Hillenbrand said, when they say more money is coming.
“We’ve let young recruits know, we’re behind the 8-ball, certainly,” Hillenbrand said. “But we also tell them that the city, the county, are on board with the LIT. That’s been passed, and next year, hopefully, we can get more in line with where we need to be.”
“This is no longer us talking and hoping,” he said of budget seasons past. “There is now a light at the end of the tunnel. We know we can do it.
“We just have to make it through until (that LIT revenue) hits.”
“And we’re being patient,” Hillenbrand replied with a smile.
The mayor, too, said he included in the 2023 spending plan a $2 per hour raise for all part-time staff as well.
County elected officials, following their budget hearings last week, opted to go with a 4% pay increase for all county employees.
The City of Bicknell last week, too, announced that it would include the same in its 2023 spending plan.