Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
GARY — Most candidates running for Gary mayor say they’d take a pay cut if elected to the city’s top job.
Mayor Rudy Clay takes a lot of heat for his $135,250 total annual income, especially since he began Gary’s annual trips to the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board. That board creates budget relief for Gary by raising local tax caps for its property owners. No other Hoosier city has petitioned for that relief.
The mayor gets supplemental pay from the Gary Sanitary District for his role as its special administrator. Commissioners there voted in 2009 to raise that paycheck 75 percent from $30,888 to $54,075, but they said they did so to correct a payroll error discovered by the state. GSD finance officials said Clay was set to receive the higher amount, $54,075, when voters last went to the polls in 2007.
Meanwhile, Clay’s pay at City Hall dropped 8 percent from $88,021 in 2007 to $81,175 in 2011.
So, technically, the mayor’s total income has dropped 5 percent from $142,096 in 2007 to $135,250 in 2011.
The Post-Tribune asked all of Gary’s Democratic mayoral candidates, including Clay, what salary they’d require if they won the top job. They were asked for a number representing a combination of city and GSD pay. Clay has suspended his re-election campaign, but he will still be on the May 3 primary ballot.
Offering to take a smaller paycheck than the incumbent is an easy way for challengers to woo voters, but the candidates said they’d commit to these numbers. That means an answer could come back to haunt the winner after the election.
Here’s how much the candidates on the ballot say they want to be paid:
Mayor Rudy Clay: $135,250
The incumbent says he didn’t run for mayor for the salary. “I do this job because of my passion and love ... for the people of Gary,” Clay said.
Karen Freeman-Wilson: $121,725
The former Indiana attorney general said she would “easily” cut the total mayoral income by a minimum of 10 percent, and she would ask other elected officials to do the same.
Ragen Hatcher: $90,167
The at-large City Council member said she’d cut the mayor’s salary “by at least a third.”
Larry Evans: $135,250
Evans wouldn’t take a pay cut, but he said he’d take an active role at the Gary Sanitary District to earn his money.
Harold Foster: $80,000
The teacher from West Side Leadership Academy said it’d also be nice if mayors could work for a performance bonus based on metrics. “There are ways to go out there and measure almost everything you do.”
Robert Lewis: $135,250
Lewis said he would not take a pay cut “unless it became absolutely necessary.”
Lester Lowe: $81,175
The local businessman said an amount equal to the mayor’s City Hall salary is “more than adequate,” but much of his pay might come from the Sanitary District to ease the city’s burden.
Saba Mohammed: $35,000
“If people are in it for the money, they’re running the wrong race,” Mohammed said.
Richard Nash: $100,000
Nash also said he’d ask cabinet members to lower their salaries.
Jeffery Tatum: $80,000
“It’s about helping the city,” Tatum said.