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Raises urged for mayor, council

Similar cities pay more, panel says

Boston officials, including the mayor and city councilors, could soon receive pay raises after an independent panel found that the city pays less than other, similarly sized cities, the head of the committee said yesterday.

The mayor's Compensation Advisory Board, whose five members were confirmed by the City Council yesterday, has compiled preliminary findings that suggest that ''Boston is behind comparable cities," said its chairman, Lawrence DiCara.

The final report, which will be turned over to the mayor and City Council late this month or early next month, will be based on an analysis by Boston's personnel department of salaries for elected officials and department heads in other cities, DiCara said, adding that he has asked personnel officials to provide salary information on more cities.

DiCara, a former city councilor, predicted that the panel will recommend salary increases for elected officials and city department heads.

If the panel recommends a raise for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who makes $150,000 a year, city councilors would also be in line for increases. The mayor and councilors' pay have historically been linked, with the 13 council members making half of the mayor's salary. The mayor and council last received pay raises in 2002, when the mayor's yearly pay jumped $25,000 and the councilors' grew $12,500, to $75,000.

Pay recommendations for department heads come in the form of ranges of pay for specific positions. Most mayoral aides are currently making amounts that are at or near the top of the range for their jobs, according to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a privately funded fiscal watchdog group.

Menino, who is looking to fill key jobs such as chief information officer, will probably have to boost pay levels to attract top candidates, DiCara said.

''My personal feeling is we should give the mayor as much leeway as is reasonably possible," he said. ''If he has to nudge up [the salary] a little to get the best person, he should be able to do it."

The mayorally appointed compensation board assesses city salaries every two years. Its recommendations are not binding, but the mayor would be unlikely to seek raises for himself or other department heads without the panel's backing. The compensation board did not recommend pay raises in 2004.

Pay raises for city officials could be politically difficult in a year when the city must renegotiate all of the city's labor contracts.

''I think there would be a hesitancy to act on the salaries of elected officials until they have a better sense of where negotiations will go," said Sam Tyler, president of the research bureau. ''They [the unions] could argue the mayor says there's not enough money, yet he has a salary increase. If there's money for him and the City Council, why isn't there money for us?"

Councilors contacted yesterday said the time is ripe for a salary discussion but wouldn't say whether they'd support a raise.

''It's the beginning of the mayor's new term," said Councilor Maureen Feeney, chairwoman of the council's Government Operations Committee. ''We're also in the process of looking for people to head several top departments, and all the labor contracts are coming due. It's an appropriate time to look at it."

DiCara and city officials declined to disclose specific information contained in the city's analysis, such as the names of cities where officials are paid more.

Some groups say Boston officials are paid more than the national average. According to the International City/County Management Association, mayors of cities with populations of between 500,000 and 999,999 earned an average of $64,475 in 2004. Mayors of cities with populations of 1 million or more on average earned $144,872 in 2004.

Boston councilors are also relatively well paid, according to the National League of Cities. A 2001 survey found the average salary for councilors in cities with populations of 200,000 and up was $39,061.

Annual salary

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