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Money set aside for pay bump for Tosa mayor

Budget Committee creates leeway, calls for council discussion

Oct. 4, 2011

Mayor Jill Didier can hardly recall attending a meeting with public officials from other communities in attendance where she didn't field questions about her pay.

They wonder why she would work long hours for an annual salary of $22,500.

"It comes up pretty much every meeting that I go to," she said. "People are shocked and awed by that."

Didier said she's kept quiet during past discussions about the mayoral salary to give the Common Council time for debate. The topic has come up several times in the past three years, but any change would not take affect until the next mayoral term begins in April 2012.

She encouraged the Budget Committee last week to determine what level of respect the mayor - and as a result the city - should have among elected peers as well as business contacts such as developers and business owners looking to work with Wauwatosa.

The committee in a 5-2 vote decided to put an additional $10,000 in the mayor's budget so funds would be available if the council decides to increase the mayoral wages in 2012.

Initially, Aldermen Peter Donegan and Dennis McBride advocated for an increase to a $30,000 salary. Then Aldermen Cheryl Berdan and Tim Hanson moved to increase that to $45,000.

No matter how long overdue or warranted doubling the salary would be, "politically it will be difficult to sell it to our constituents," McBride said.

On the other hand, Berdan said, there's a lot of time to make up for. The last time the mayor got a raise was 1984.

"It's an area we neglected," she said. "I think we need to make that much of a jump."

It became apparent that, as in past discussions about the mayor's salary, there was disagreement about what the salary should be.

Alderman Craig Wilson argued that this is a discussion best had by the entire council. He pushed for officials to look at the mayor's job duties and description and to determine a market value.

"There's more than should we just change the number," he said.

The council can define the mayor's job all it wants, but when it comes down to it, the mayor is accountable to constituents, Didier said.

"It's a role that really is defined by the campaign and what the constituency votes for," she said.

The committee recommended the entire council have a discussion about whether to increase the salary before the budget comes to a vote in mid-November. Keeping with that, McBride said he'd like to revisit a possible reduction in the number of council members, which could free up some money.

Mayoral mileage

Salary wasn't the only part of the mayoral compensation package on the table last week.

The Budget Committee unanimously voted to cut the 2012 car allowance by more than half, from the proposed $3,600 to $1,500.

Mayor Jill Didier suggested a reduction be made, saying she could be reimbursed for driving to meetings at which she represents the city. In 2010, she received $945 in mileage reimbursement.

Elected officials tend not to take full advantage of the reimbursement benefit, and using a car allowance instead of mileage reimbursement makes for easy recordkeeping, City Administrator James Archambo said.

Unlike a mayoral salary that can only be changed per four-year term, car allowance is a business expense that can be modified annually.

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