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Councilors narrowing choices for Braintree mayor's salary

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 25, 2013 05:02 PM

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After five months of debate, Braintree’s Town Council may finally be approaching a consensus on a salary raise for the mayor.

Most recently, councilors on the Rules and Ordinance committee voted in favor of a 17 percent salary increase for the mayor, which offers step increases based on longevity. The highest step offers a salary of approximately $123,000 a year. Added to that base salary would be cost-of-living increases tied to the consumer price index.

“I can see the implication of politics, and I wanted to pull that out entirely,” said Councilor Leland Dingee, who recommended this most recent calculation for an increase. “Use classification range and do increases on CPI…it seems fair, equitable, and in line with other mayors in Massachusetts in that range.”

The proposal is different from previous ones put forward by Councilor John Mullaney – who wanted an increase to $130,000, and the Ways and Means Committee – which suggested a one-time raise to $125,000.

Leland said the increase is based on figures already established by the town, and still keeps the position competitive to bring in talent – one of Mullaney’s reasons for suggesting the salary bump to begin with.

New mayors would start at the initial, and current, salary for mayor at $105,000.

“For any new mayor I thought let’s keep it … $105k, subject to same increases,” Dingee said. “You can work your way up to get you a more fair salary…and I think it helps keep the mayor in line with the people who report for him.”

Dingee contended that the initial salary could still be difficult for someone to accept, especially someone making more than that in his or her current profession.

“You cannot hold any other job…they have to give up that job or put it in a trust to take the mayor’s position…you really are relegated to live on $105,000. It sounds like a lot of money, but when you’re doing his job 24/7, [it isn’t],” Dingee said.

Though Mullaney supported the proposal at the Rules and Ordinance level, the low starting point was his biggest problem with the compromise.

For example, some public-sector employees make more than $110,000 a year and would have to take a pay cut if they were elected mayor, Mullaney said.

“There aren’t many people in Massachusetts making $110,000 that can afford to take a decrease. [They] would be out of the race. And I think that’s what the idea of keeping salaries down is all about. You limit who is going to run,” Mullaney said.

Mullaney said Braintree was blessed with current Mayor Joseph Sullivan, who came in at the previous salary, but he wanted to ensure that the best candidates would run should Sullivan ever choose to leave.

“[Sullivan] is someone who would love to be the mayor of Braintree and not governor of the state. If we could keep Joe there forever, it would be wonderful. But it will be open season when you see [state positions open]. Who knows who goes where?” Mullaney said.

All the proposals will be before the council come mid-February, at which time councilors will decide if they want a one-time increase, or one that is constantly moving.

But for those who would scoff at any such large increase, Dingee said that in this instance, it makes sense, especially because the salary has been unchanged for as long as the new government has been in place.

“It’s a one-time thing, a corrective issue,” Dingee said.

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