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Next Wauwatosa mayor could earn $30K

Pay boost proposal draws mixed reactions

June 29, 2011

Whoever wins the next mayoral election could be looking at a salary of $30,000, a figure that would reflect the first raise given to the position in 27 years.

The Employee Relations Committee on Tuesday recommended, on a 3-1 vote, an increase from the existing mayoral pay of $22,500. The Common Council will need to vote on the matter July 5; if approved, the raise would not go into effect until after the April 2012 election.

Alderman Peter Donegan, committee chairman, estimated the value of mayoral job duties - appointing members to committees and commissions, breaking ties, holding veto power on council votes, representing the city at political and ceremonial events, and more - at $70,000 for a full-time position.

The job has never been officially designated as full- or part-time, but he said he expects Tosa's mayor to work 20 or fewer hours per week.

Alderman Brian Ewerdt suggested a $35,000 salary, but the motion failed.

Ewerdt brought up the issue of mayoral compensation in late 2009, recommending the salary be doubled to $45,000. He scaled back the figure this time because of a reluctance among some residents and city officials to spend any more money. Since the position last saw its salary adjusted in 1984, it was past due for review, he said.

"In '84, you might have been able to squeak by (at $22,500) and live in Wauwatosa," Ewerdt said. "I don't think you'd be able to do that today."

Ewerdt said the past few mayors put in many hours, and the position should offer a living wage.

"Being the chief executive officer, there's a lot of responsibility," he said.

Initially, he wanted to build in a 1 percent annual raise for the mayor so a future council wouldn't be trying to catch up again, but state statutes limit automatic adjustments.

Due to the economic climate and the deficit the city budget is facing, Donegan proposed dropping a bit lower to $30,000. He said the position is important and that given the amount of time people have dedicated to the position he feels the city has been exploitive.

"There's a big part of me that wants to pay something for that," he said.

He called the present and past few mayors "overachievers" and doesn't expect the next mayor to give as much time to the job. The public has high expectations for the mayor and those might have to be lowered, Donegan said.

Only Alderman Michael Walsh voted in opposition. He said he doesn't see the mayor as the city's CEO, as identified in state and local laws, but more of an advisory chairman of the board who leaves the day-to-day operations to staff.

He saw the raise as a 33 percent jump in pay, too steep in his opinion.

Alderman Eric Meaux, the Common Council president, said health insurance and fringe benefits bring the mayor's existing compensation package to a value of about $45,000.

He suggested defraying some of the expenses associated with the job of being mayor. However, the mayor already gets a city cell phone, mileage reimbursement and use of a computer and office supplies in City Hall.

Next step

WHAT: Wauwatosa Common Council will decide whether to change pay for the mayoral position

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.

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