The mayor made his proposal for 2023 raises.

City council will spend the next month reviewing information as it considers that request.

Portland City Council took the first step in its budgeting process for next year Monday, discussing raises, longevity and insurance for city employees.

Council members also approved an ordinance establishing rules for attending meetings electronically, bringing the city in line with Indiana Code.

While noting that he did not expect a vote Monday, Boggs presented council members with his proposal for the 2023 payroll ordinance. He suggested 5% raises for all city employees. (That equates to an average of about $2,000 per employee annually or about 96 cents per hour.)

The 5% raise would represent a total increase in spending of $135,656.

His proposal also calls for all employees who are in a position covered by the Public Employees' Retirement Fund to be eligible for longevity pay at $100 per year up to a maximum of $2,000. (Currently, only police officers and firefighters receive longevity pay.)

Council member Janet Powers asked that she and her fellow council members be provided with additional information, including how much raises of 2%, 3% and 4% would be in additional spending. She also questioned the longevity pay increase.

“I’m just putting it out there because I’m not sure that we can sustain that kind of increase,” she said.

Clerk-treasurer Lori Phillips said it was unclear why only the police and fire departments have received longevity pay.

Boggs argued in favor of the longevity pay, saying it's worthwhile to help keep experienced employees on staff.

Council president Kent McClung also asked for information about how much health insurance costs have gone up over the course of the last 10 years. He noted that the city has absorbed the increased insurance costs and not passed them on to employees.

Council members Dave Golden, McClung and Powers all discussed the importance of reviewing all relevant compensation information before making a decision.

“As city council members, our responsibility is to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars,” said Golden. “I think we need to take a look at this … in more depth than we have at this point. And we need to look at not just the payroll percent increase but the longevity pay increase, the insurance increase …”

Last year, council and the mayor discussed raises over the course of four meetings. The mayor had proposed a $1 per hour raise, with council eventually approving raises of 65 cents.

No action was taken on the mayor’s proposal, with council members to take up the issue again at their June 6 meeting.

Council members Don Gillespie, Michele Brewster, Matt Goldsworthy, Mike Aker, McClung, Powers and Golden also unanimously passed an ordinance laying out rules for attending meetings electronically.

For electronic participation to be allowed, at least 50% of the members of council must be present in person and those who want to participate electronically must notify the clerk-treasurer at least five days in advance. A council member may not attend more than 50% of meetings electronically and may not attend more than two meetings in a row using electronic means.

Council members are not allowed to vote on the following items if they are not in attendance in person: to adopt a budget, initiate a referendum, establish or increase a fee or penalty, use eminent domain authority, reduce personnel or establish or renew a tax. (Golden, who was attending the meeting electronically, expressed his opinion that those rules are unnecessarily restrictive.)

The ordinance brings the city in line with a new state law that was passed last year. (It can be superseded in cases of a declared state or local emergency.)

In other business:

•Boggs commented on the April 23 death of longtime Graphic Printing Company chairman and president Jack Ronald, offering his condolences to Jack’s wife Connie and the family. “Jack was a fierce believer in Portland. In The Commercial Review, he wrote volumes about our city, extolling what was great, exposing what was bad and giving us a peek at what we could be. He challenged local government to serve the community, challenged the community to serve each other and led us all by giving us his time and energy to the good causes of Portland. Each of us are better off because of him, and Jack will be sorely missed.”

•Jodi Hayes of Jay County Development Corporation presented tax abatement requests from Priority Plastics and FCC (Indiana.) Priority Plastics is seeking a five-year abatement on $6.6 million in new equipment. FCC is asking for a three-year abatement on $590,000 in equipment that is expected to create 15 new jobs. Council forwarded both requests to the city’s tax abatement advisory committee.

•Council and the mayor briefly discussed an agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management for leasing city vehicles. The mayor said a plan is being explored to use trade-ins to cover the cost of the first year of leases in order to eliminate the need for additional appropriations. McClung insisted that any such plan would need to come before council for approval.

•The mayor provided the following updates:

—Greg Bailey is “anxious to settle” his family’s ownership of the Bailey Building on Main Street on the west side of the downtown area. Boggs added that he is still waiting on information from The Greazy Pickle about whether engineers believe the restaurant’s shared wall could be reinforced if the Bailey Building is demolished.

—A pre-bid meeting was held last week regarding the Meridian Street storm sewer project. Bids are due May 12 and will be opened during a meeting at 2 p.m. May 19.

—One appraisal is in for the former Sheller-Globe south building on Bridge Street. He said he hopes to have a second appraisal, as well as estimates regarding a new street/parks department headquarters, in the next couple of weeks.

•Boggs answered a question from Powers regarding trash collection, saying city workers are making accommodations for those who are unable to pull the new Toters to a pick-up site along a street or alley. Outside of those accommodations, he said, trash will not be picked up if it is not in a Toter. (Citations are not yet being written for those who are not following the ordinance that was updated in March.)

•Council approved the following: Boggs’ appointments of Rusty Inman, Emily Goodrich, Bart Darby, Hannah Long and John McFarland to the city’s historic preservation commission; and establishment of First Bank of Berne as the depository for city funds.