Future council pay stirs debate in Everett
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As Everett prepares to elect its new City Council next year, how much to pay its members has become a subject of debate.
Under a charter change approved by voters last year, Everett in 2014 is replacing its bicameral City Council — composed of the seven-member Board of Aldermen and an 18-member Common Council — with a single 11-member council.
By a 4-3 vote late last month, aldermen established a $25,000 annual salary for the future councilors, $10,000 more than the $15,000 proposed by the Finance Committee, which is made up of three aldermen and five common councilors. Critics contend the figure is too high, and one alderman — Robert Van Campen — publicly reversed his stance, saying he now supports the $15,000 figure.
“My thinking in the moment was that [$25,000] was the number that would allow us to attract the best candidates for these positions,” said Van Campen, who also is a member of the Finance Committee. But he said he concluded that $15,000 was more appropriate since it is “in line with what similarly-sized communities are paying their councilors.”
The proposed $25,000 salary was to come before the Common Council last Monday. But action was delayed when city solicitor Colleen Mejia determined the measure had not been passed by aldermen at the July 30 meeting because it did not receive the two-thirds vote the new charter requires.
The issue could resurface as early as the aldermen’s meeting Monday. Ward 3 Alderman Michael K. Marchese, who supported the $25,000 figure, said he plans to propose $18,500 as a compromise he hopes could attract the two-thirds majority needed in both council bodies.
Everett aldermen now earn $7,200 a year, and common councilors $5,500. All are eligible to receive city health insurance, but that perk will end in 2014 under the new charter.
In other cities of similar size, councilors or aldermen receive: $4,000 in Melrose; $8,000 in Chelsea; $10,000 in Salem ($10,500 for the president), and $11,700 in Beverly ($12,300 for the president). Melrose councilors also earn a $1,000 annual stipend. Councilors are eligible for health insurance in Beverly, Melrose, and Salem, but not in Chelsea.
In Revere, a large community nearby, city councilors earn $15,461, $17,231 for the council president. They also get an annual stipend of $4,800 and are eligible for health insurance and longevity pay based on their years of public service.
Councilors earn $19,729 in Medford ($22,120 for president) and $15,302 in Lynn ($16,302 for president). They also receive annual stipends of $7,800 in Medford ($8,400 for the president) and $8,700 in Lynn, where they are eligible for municipal health insurance. In Peabody, councilors receive $7,466, plus an $1,800 annual stipend and health insurance.
In its vote last month, the Everett aldermen opted not to follow a Finance Committee recommendation that the future council president receive a $2,500 annual stipend.
While the issue of councilor pay has proved controversial, a separate 5-2 vote by aldermen last month to raise the pay of the mayor from $85,000 to $115,000, effective in 2014, has not generated similar debate. The Common Council concurred with the change by a 16-0 vote last Monday. The raise awaits final approval in both bodies.
The first city councilors under Everett’s new charter will be chosen in the November 2013 city election. In the event the City Council fails to set new salaries, the new charter provides that future councilors would receive the $7,200 salary that aldermen now earn, according to city clerk Michael Matarazzo.
Ward 5 Common Councilor Rosa DiFlorio said that, following a study she undertook of the pay issue as a member of the Finance Committee, she believed the future councilors should earn $22,000 to $29,000.
DiFlorio said that she based that in part on the full compensation package for councilors in other cities, notably Revere.
“Other communities have expense accounts, they have longevity, they have health benefits. We don’t have any of that,” she said of the new council.
DiFlorio said her proposed salary range is a fair one for people who are qualified and work hard.
As a compromise, DiFlorio said she would support a salary in the range of $18,000 to $25,000.
Marchese said that while willing to compromise, he believed $25,000 was a fair salary, based on DiFlorio’s study. In addition to being in line with Revere, he said the salary would allow Everett to attract quality candidates.
A salary of $25,000 “could bring a young lawyer into the running, maybe an accountant,” he said.Continued...