City Councilors in Springfield, Massachusetts have voted for a big pay raise for the mayor after years of on-again off-again discussion. They’ve also given initial approval to raise their own pay, with little prior notice.
The Springfield City Council gave first-step approval Monday night via voice vote for a $40,000 pay raise for the mayor. If final approval occurs at the council’s October 21st meeting, the annual salary for the mayor will be $135,000 effective in January 2014. It would be the first change in the mayor’s salary in 16 years.
Mayor Domenic Sarno, who is midway through a four- year term, believes a pay raise is overdue but said he did not want the issue to become a referendum on his job performance.
Raising the mayor’s salary has been discussed for several years. At one point an ad-hoc committee consisting of city councilors, civic leaders, and businesspeople was formed to study the issue and several public hearings were held. No pay raise materialized due to budget concerns.
The issue was revived last May when the Springfield Chamber of Commerce recommended a $40,000 raise. The chamber’s report said the current salary of $95,000 was lower than the pay given to chief executives in comparable cities in the region. Even some smaller cities—Westfield at $100,000 for example—pay their mayors more. More than 100 Springfield employees, including several department heads and school principals, make more than the mayor.
Sarno, and other supporters of the pay raise, said the mayor’s salary should reflect the responsibilities of the job.
City Councilor Timothy Rooke, who has a reputation as a taxpayer’s watchdog on the council, has strongly advocated for a pay raise for the office of the mayor.
Rooke said he would urge councilors to consider a plan to adjust the mayor’s salary automatically based on the annual rate of inflation to avoid going so long between pay raises and to avoid a vote than can be politically unpopular.
The council voted 7-6 to give first approval to a$5,000 salary increase for the members of the council. City Councilor Michael Fenton, who voted for the pay raise, said the council’s salary has been $14,500 since 1996.
No public hearing took place on the city council’s proposed pay raise prior to Monday’s vote. Fenton said people will have a chance to address the council on the issue before a final vote occurs on October 21st.