WOBURN - Members of the City Council’s Ordinance Committee this week moved to kill a proposal to increase stipends for themselves and the School Committee, but agreed the mayor is due for a significant pay hike.
During a recent meeting in City Hall, the Ordinance Committee voted unanimously against passage of a proposal from City Council President Paul Denaro that would increase the council’s annual stipend from $9,000 to $14,000 (from $10,000 for $15,000 for the president), and for School Committee members from $3,000 to $6,000 (from $3,600 to $7,000 for the chairman).
Along similar lines, the Ordinance Committee also slapped an unfavorable recommendation on a companion ordinance submitted by Denaro that would create an automatic mechanism to continuing increasing the stipends of the city officials every two years.
Alderman at-large Richard Haggerty, who moved to dispose of those two agenda items regarding the compensation packages of the Aldermen and School Committee by voting against them, did so without elaboration.
His counterparts also took action on those ordinance changes without debate. The full council will likely decide how to act on the proposals at its first meeting in February.
Kept in committee for further discussion this week was the last of Denaro’s four proposals, which aims at hiking Mayor Scott Galvin’s pay from $73,000 to $105,000.
At issue was the size of the proposed raise, which would amount to a $30,000 salary hike in a single year, if approved as presented.
Ultimately, the Ordinance Committee decided to consider the possibility of setting the mayor’s salary at $105,000, with the increase being instituted over a number of years through smaller incremental jumps in pay.
“I think the proposed $105,000 figure might be right in line. But it’s a substantial jump that might be extreme,” Ward 4 Alderman Michael Anderson said.
This week, virtually every member of the Ordinance Committee agreed that the city’s top executive is woefully underpaid, especially when his salary is compared with those of mayors and town administrators in the immediate area.
Of the towns bordering Woburn, Winchester compensates Town Manager Richard Howard $140,000 for his work, while Stoneham Town Administrator David Ragucci and Reading Town Manager Peter Hechenblelkner earn $110,000 and $129,603, respectively.
City executives in the region also make considerably more that Mayor Scott Galvin, with Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan being paid $95,563, while Malden Mayor Gary Christenson earns $105,000 and Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn receives a salary of $123,752.
“According to the data, the truth of it is the office if the mayor is roughly $30,000 or a third below where every other comparable mayor is in the area. That’s substantial,” Haggerty commented. “I think it’s important to have this conversation.”
Since Denaro submitted his proposal to increase the pay of the city’s leaders earlier this month, Galvin has publicly declared that he will not support any effort to hike his pay.
According to the mayor, while he agrees his office deserves a better compensation rate, he can’t justify being paid more when he may be forced to ask all other city employees to do more with less in the face of tight budgetary constraints.
This week, Ward 6 Alderman Michael Raymond agreed with Galvin’s stance on the issue.
“It’s going to be hard to go back and ask people to remain stagnant or take a paycut, when he’s receiving a 30 percent raise,” the Ward 6 Alderman pointed out.
Ward 1 Alderman Rosa DiTucci argued that discussing a pay hike for the mayor was pointless, when Galvin has vowed to oppose the initiative.
However, Denaro countered that the City Council has the authority to act independently of the mayor’s office and should do so, if members believe the ordinance change has merit.
“I have a very hard time with the percentage increase this raise represents. The mayor said he won’t approve it. He’s already said it won’t happen. He won’t appropriate,” said DiTucci.
“The mayor can do anything he wishes,” the City Council president responded. “It’s an ordinance change and he can veto it. It’s not an appropriation.”
This week, Denaro acknowledged that the timing of his request may be difficult, given the nature of economic times, but he argued that when it comes to raising the salaries of public officials, an opportune political window just might never open up.
According to the city council president, he has withdrawn or delayed presenting similar proposals numerous times over the past decade, only to see the disparity in pay between Woburn’s officials and those in surrounding cities and towns grow even worse.
“I’ll be the scapegoat for putting this forward. I still feel it was timeworthy years ago, and it still is now,” Denaro remarked. “I know it’s a difficult issue for people to say, ‘I voted for a raise,’ but it is in front of us.”