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Timing not right to decide mayor's pay, aldermen say

Move to set $30K salary fails, but talk of raise remains

July 6, 2011

A move to boost mayoral pay to $30,000 a year after the next election was narrowly defeated, 7-6, by the Common Council on Tuesday, but that doesn't mean the idea of a raise has been put to rest.

In fact, the aldermen were generally in support of a salary increase for a position that hasn't seen a raise since 1984. However, the debate focused more on the timing of the decision and whether other issues such as the size of the council and whether a mayor and city administrator are both needed should be resolved first.

The mayoral post currently has a $22,500 salary.

Alderman Bobby Pantuso said he contemplates running for mayor in the future - though not for the next term - and the ability to receive a decent salary for the work would play into that decision. He called the existing pay, and even the proposed $30,000, "ridiculous."

However, he counted among the council members who voted against the motion because he wanted know where the additional $7,500 needed to fund the raise would come from.

"I can't personally spend money without knowing where it's coming from," he said.

As a member of the Budget Committee, Alderman Dennis McBride pledged to bring up the question of a pay increase for the mayoral post during the budget deliberations that will begin in September. But the discussion should wait until that time, he said.

"Every dollar is going to count," he said. "We're really going to have to nickel and dime this thing."

Mayor Jill Didier said it is difficult to know now where the money might be found in the more than $50 million city budget for 2012 until she, the city administrator and finance director sit down to look at the entire budget picture in August.

She won't budget for a raise for the position unless she is directed to do so by the council, she said.

"I have not asked for a raise, so please make note of that," she said.

Nor did she give her opinion about how much the position should be paid, although she did contend being mayor is a full-time job. She asked that out of respect to herself and past mayors that "have given our all to the community" claims that the job is part time should cease.

The pay issue - initiated by the Employee Relations Committee in late 2009 and postponed until June, closer to the next mayoral election - has been thoroughly discussed, the mayor said.

"You just need to make a decision folks," she said.

Alderman Peter Donegan, chairman of the Employee Relations Committee, crunched the numbers and said the raise would equate to little more than 1 percent more pay for each year the salary has remained unchanged.

He rebutted the argument that the mayor's position is being treated better than those of other employees, which have been receiving pay increases during that time period.

In fact, with the 5.8 pension contribution required by the state budget repair bill and 10 percent health care premium contribution required of the city's nonrepresented workers, the mayor's compensation actually decreases significantly, he said.

"As a humanitarian gesture, as just a little piece of fairness, move the salary up just a little bit," he said.

How they voted

Motion: increase the mayor's salary to $30,000 for the next term

In favor: Cheryl Berdan, Don Birschel, Peter Donegan, Brian Ewerdt, Linda Nikcevich and Jill Organ

Opposed: Jacqueline Jay, Dennis McBride, Eric Meaux, Bobby Pantuso, Jeff Roznowski, Jason Wilke and Craig Wilson

Absent: Kathleen Causier, Tim Hanson and Michael Walsh

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