Westfield Mayor's Pay Raise Raises Taxpayers' Eyebrows

Mayor Andy Cook's Salary To Top $108K

The city of Westfield’s decision to give its mayor a raise raised eyebrows among the town’s 30,000 taxpayers.

Mayor Andy Cook's salary will increase from $98,200 in 2011 to $108,200 in 2012, which is a 10 percent raise.

According to a salary survey by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, only two Indiana mayors, Carmel’s and Fort Wayne’s, earn annual salaries in the six figures range.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has a base salary of $95,000, RTV6's Kara Kenney reported.

On Monday, the Westfield City Council voted to increase members’ salaries from $13,000 to $15,000, which is a 15 percent increase.

Clerk Treasurer Cindy Gossard’s salary was also increased 9 percent from $67,500, to $73,300. Westfield city employees received about a 4 percent raise.

Westfield resident Todd Hoard said he felt insulted after learning about the pay increases.

"It's kind of a slap in the face," Hoard said. "In this community, people are just happy to have a job. The people that are on the frontlines doing the work, I didn't see their pay go up 10 to 15 percent."

Westfield resident Jose Beyer agreed.

"I think it's ridiculous. It’s outrageous," Beyer said. "In the private sector, the most you can get is about 3 percent."

Beyer told RTV6 the money could have been better spent improving infrastructure, such as putting in sidewalks on busy Westfield roads.

At RTV6's request, the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, as well as the Association of Indiana Counties, did an informal survey and reported very few communities are giving raises for 2012.

Jennifer Simmons, deputy director of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, said community leaders have the right to increase or decrease pay, and that voters can voice their opinions on Election Day.

"If one community chooses to give no raises and the other chooses to give 4 percent, that is their prerogative as leaders in their community,” Simmons wrote in an email to RTV6. "If the voters in that community do not believe they have made their case for why those raises were necessary or affordable, that is something for the voters to consider at the ballot box."

Cook was unavailable for an on-camera interview on Wednesday, but told RTV6 he's heard very few negative comments about the raises, and he's honored to receive one.

Cook also emphasized his city has become extremely efficient in saving taxpayers’ money.

John Dippel, a Westfield councilman who along with six other council members voted to give themselves raises, told RTV6 the mayor and city council salaries will remain unchanged until 2015.

"You want to pay quality people for quality work," Dippel said. "You want to stay competitive with your fellow communities in Hamilton County."

Dippel also said Westfield hasn't given out raises in several years, and the cost will be absorbed into the budget.

"It's inconsequential to the residents," Dippel said. "It doesn't cost them a penny more on their taxes."

Dippel also explained that Cook does not have some of the perks other mayors have, including a vehicle.

"A car is worth $12,000 a year, plus gas," Dippel said. "Our mayor drives his own vehicle and pays for his own gas."

Both Cook and Dippel said they are not concerned that most cities and towns are going without raises in 2012.

"They're going to manage their communities," Dippel said. "They're going to know what their employees are worth. I think our mayor is the No. 1 mayor in the state."

Financial officials with the city of Indianapolis said they were unaware of any raises given to elected officials since at least 2006, and there are no plans to give raises in 2012.

For a list of Indiana's mayoral salaries, click here.

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