Trafalgar council agrees on police pay, delays salary ordinance again

Trafalgar’s police officers will likely see a pay increase next year, as council members agreed to raise their salaries.

But the town council delayed passing a new salary ordinance for another month, for a few different reasons.

The three council members present at the Thursday meeting agreed on giving officers in the Trafalgar Police Department a roughly 10% raise for next year, which is $5,000 per officer. This is in line with what Chief Charles Roberts had requested in his 2023 budget.

Roberts has been advocating for a pay raise, and says the department is behind surrounding agencies.

Trafalgar’s officers are some of the lowest-paid in the county. A third class officer in Trafalgar, which is the lowest ranking above the probationary period, has a salary just over $45,000 at the moment, according to town documents. A first class officer salary in Trafalgar is just over $47,000. Few surrounding agencies pay below $50,000 now for starting salaries, Roberts said.

Council members had debated Roberts on the raise in October, questioning if it was in the town’s means. Roberts and Jessica Jones, council president, came to an agreement on the $5,000 raises before the meeting Thursday.

Police officers, as well as other town employees, are also set to start paying 5% of their insurance premium, in order to offset the cost of the raises. The town in the past has always paid 100% of all town employees’ insurance.

The council, however, did not vote on the pay raises Thursday, and tabled it to Dec. 15. One reason being that there were not at least four council members present to suspend the rules to pass it that night. There is also not a 2023 salary ordinance draft yet.

Council member Jeff Eisenmenger additionally questioned if the $5,000 raises are in the town’s budget means, and he wanted to have more time to look into where the money would come from, he said.

“I’m not against a raise, but we need to compare apples to apples not oranges to apples, and we have got to stay within our budget and our means,” Eisenmenger said.

Jones thinks the budget is within the town’s means, as it is offset by having officers pay for some of their insurance premiums, she said.

“I understand that it looks like a substantial pay increase, but we also have difficulty keeping officers on the lowest-paid ranks,” Jones said.

In addition to police, a pay raise for other town employees and board members is in discussion.

Loggan Axsom, utility and street superintendent, asked his salary to remain the same, but requested pay raises for some of his employees. He asked one employee to receive full-time pay of $20 an hour and another to get$23 an hour. Utility employees are also going to pay 5% of their insurance premium.

The council also discussed raising their own pay, which is currently at around $3,000 a year. Jones said she spends a lot of time outside of her day job working on town business, and wanted to look at raising pay to be comparable with other town councils.

Other town councils of comparable size in the county make more than Trafalgar council members. Prince’s Lakes council members made around $4,000 in 2021, New Whiteland’s council made $4,900 and Whiteland’s around $6,000, according to salary data from Indiana Gateway.

Jones also said raising pay for all town boards would inspire more community members to run for the town council, or volunteer to join the planning and zoning board.

“We need to inspire more people to run for the election next year,” Jones said. ” … it looks bad saying I feel like we need a raise, but I think it would help get better qualified people to run.”

Eisenmenger added he was not advocating giving himself a raise, but he agreed the town boards are underpaid. Trafalgar’s board members have not seen a pay raise since 2017.

The town board of zoning appeals and plan commission members are paid $123 annually, and the metro police commissioners also make $123. The town park advisory board is not paid at all.

Eisenmenger also added he thinks the clerk-treasurer needs a raise as well. Clerk-Treasurer Donna Moore currently makes $41,000. The other council members agreed.

“She does a lot of a lot of work, and she deserves a decent raise,” Eisenmenger said.

The town council will consider its new salary ordinance at its next meeting on Dec. 15.