ELWOOD – Monday was an evening full of surprises as the Elwood City Council unanimously adopted the proposed 2017 budget and amended proposed salary ordinances.

Staff at the Elwood Recycling Center received an unexpected raise Monday when the City Council unanimously approved a 64-cent raise to bring their wages in line with those of temporary parks employees.

However, the officials with the union representing the city’s utility workers received a less than pleasant surprise when the council voted 6-1 in favor of a salary ordinance that left a clothing allowance at 2015 levels. The union had ratified a second version of the ordinance that raised the amount from $600 to $1,000.

“That’s not what we agreed upon and I would hate for (union members) to think the process wasn’t exhausted. That’s why they are in a union because that’s their voice,” Jason Benson, a representative with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, told the council.

“They totally disregarded the bargaining process between the union and the Board of Works,” he said.

Marie Moore, who moved to vote on the version of the union salary ordinance that was approved, said she was not sure whether extending the uniform allowance to office workers served the intent of the allowance.

“Not that the girls aren’t important, but I thought the clothing allowance was for the guys who work outside, for their boots and their coats,” she said.

The union and the city have until Nov. 1 to arrive at a final contract and may schedule a special meeting before then to approve one.

Councilman Jim Watters, who was the hold-out on the utility workers’ salary, also introduced the last-minute measure that raised the advertised hourly rate of the recycling center workers. He said the total cost to the city would be $5,000 to raise the pay of the recycling center workers from the proposed $9.84 per hour to $10.48.

“I’ve done both jobs. The recycling center is just as hard, if not harder,” Watters said.

In addition, he said, the recycling center not only is a for-profit operation that makes money for the city, it also is good for the environment.

“I’m not saying they have more value, but I am saying they have value,” he said.

The budget includes nearly $7.5 million in Indiana Department of Local Government Finance-reviewed funds, including general fund, police and fire pension and $1.32 million in home-ruled funds, most of which were devoted to public safety.

The salary ordinances include a 3 percent raise for regular, administrative and elected city employees, and a 6 percent raise for police and fire department employees.

The adopted tax levy is a little more than $5.07 million.

The city last year failed to approve a new budget when the council failed to reach a quorum, as required by law. As a result, the state required the city to follow its approved 2015 budget for the 2016 budget year.

The loss to the city for the 2016 budget year was about $160,000, most of which was a proposed 2 percent raise for employees, said Clerk-Treasurer Allison M. Atwood.

 Extra pay period

The Elwood City Council is looking for ways to cover a 27th pay period for city workers.

The estimated $76,000 shortfall is the result of a failure last year of the council to implement its proposed 2016 budget. The council did not have a quorum, as required by law, leading the state to require that the city follow its approved 2015 budget for 2016.

“We’re trying to figure out where we’re going to move the money to make the 27th pay,” said Clerk-Treasurer Allison M. Atwood.

Most budget years are made up of 26 pay periods, but every sixth or seventh year, there is an extra pay period, she said.

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 640-4883.

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