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South Bend Common Council passes 2.5 percent raises for city employees, eliminates larger raises

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The South Bend Common Council voted to raise all city employees’ salaries by 2.5 percent Monday evening while simultaneously eliminating any raises larger than that.

The city’s 2022 salary ordinance for non-bargaining employees called for  all hourly workers to receive a 2.5 percent raise or $32,000 minimum salary, whichever was less.

 

The ordinance would have restructured the city’s departments of community investment and administration and finance, ultimately eliminating five positions and creating 16 new ones. 

 

Some of those new positions – like a neighborhood grant specialist and managers for neighborhood housing developments and neighborhood housing programs – were meant to facilitate the $46.3 million of the city's American Rescue Plan funding allocated in the 2022 budget.

 

But Councilwoman Sharon McBride said despite repeated requests, the council did not receive “substantive” job descriptions for many of those positions.

 

“We asked other people to provide information of specific job duties, and we are not sure of what is really going to be done or asked for,” McBride said. “To not have clarity of what those job duties are is very significant.”

 

The ordinance also would have significantly raised salary caps for some administrative positions – the deputy director of human resources, for example, would have received an 11.49 percent increase, the director of community investment, a 9 percent increase, and the director of planning, an 18.59 percent increase.

 

Reading from a statement she sent out Monday morning, Councilwoman Lori Hamann said those disparities won’t stand when the nation is facing “an epidemic of wage inequality.”

 

“Economic injustice often means racial injustice,” Hamman read. “I believe the city has an opportunity – as well as a responsibility – to act as a leader in countering this problem.”

 

The ordinance also would have provided raises that the city said were focused on ensuring equity, like the 9.47 percent increase for the director of facilities and grounds.

 

The council amended the ordinance to give 2.5 percent raises across the board and eliminate any new positions that haven’t already been approved by the council, like director of the community police review board. 

 

Council members did make one exception – a 21.71 percent increase for the city’s historic preservation specialist. Controller Dan Parker said the steep increase is due to the department losing a part-time worker, whose duties will be absorbed by the full-time historic preservation specialist.

 

The council said it will evaluate requests for other raises or new positions on an individual basis. The salary ordinance ultimately passed 6 to 3, with council members Troy Warner, Sheila Niezgodski and Rachel Tomas Morgan voting against it.

 

Council members also passed 2.5 percent increases to their own salaries and the salaries of City Clerk Dawn Jones and her staff.

 

This story has been updated.

 

Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.

 

If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating here. 

Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.