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Hefty raises could be in line for City Council

Bill Linehan’s proposal could increase City Council salaries up to 24 percent.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/file/Globe staff

City Council President Bill Linehan said Thursday he will propose a pay increase for Boston’s councilors, who have gone eight years without a raise, that could boost their annual salaries by more than $20,000.

Linehan’s proposal could increase City Council salaries up to 24 percent. That would bring councilors’ pay to $108,500 from the current $87,500.

He said he has not finalized his proposal and declined to provide an exact dollar figure. He said he reached his proposed increase by adding 2 percent a year from 2007, which is just after the council last got a raise, to 2018.


Linehan said his increase is modeled on union contracts that give annual raises and on a study of pay in other major cities. The raise would come in a single increase if it is approved by the council and signed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

“It’s long overdue in my opinion,” Linehan said in an interview. “The sentiment is that it’s been a long time and that we need to address it. There are many people on the body who feel this is long overdue.”

The council president described it as a “moderate increase” that was “the same or less than what other city employees have received.” The council used to get small pay hikes every few years. It had three raises from 1998 to 2006, but none since.

The pay of Boston’s 13 city councilors has traditionally been tied to the mayor’s salary. They make half the annual salary of the city’s chief executive, who is paid $175,000. Walsh took office in January and made it clear in an interview Thursday that he does not want more money.

“I do not want the mayor’s salary part of that package,” Walsh said. “I’ve been in office for nine months. I’m not looking to ask the taxpayers of Boston to give me a raise. If the council files something to give themselves a raise and they vote it through, I’ll make a determination at that time.”


Linehan said his proposal will be “data driven” and will include figures comparing councilors’ salaries to those in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, and other cities. He plans to file an order Monday morning in the city clerk’s office, and it will be taken up at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

“We’ll have a hearing relatively quickly,” Linehan said, “to discuss the data and all the information and any questions and have it publicly vetted and a vote.”

City councilors were not eager Thursday to discuss the proposed pay increase, an issue that is fraught with political risk. Most did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Councilors are not prohibited from holding other jobs, although almost none do, according to financial disclosures on file with the city clerk.

An exception is Councilor at Large Michael F. Flaherty Jr., a partner at the law firm Adler, Pollock, & Sheehan. Flaherty was paid $100,001 to $200,000 from the firm in 2013, according to his financial disclosure filing, although he was not on the City Council last year. The disclosure did not indicate what he was paid this year, and he did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Councilor at Large Michelle Wu also has a law license, but she said Thursday she is not practicing. Councilor Josh Zakim also is a lawyer, but is not affiliated with a firm. He could not be reached Thursday.


When the City Council last voted for a raise in 2006, it was part of a package that included the mayor. Linehan said his proposal would only affect the City Council.

Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, said that the city needs to take a comprehensive look at the salaries of all its top paid officials and expressed frustration that the potential raises would benefit only council members.

“I think it really should be done as part of a bigger package, dealing with department heads and Cabinet officers as well,” Tyler said. “We have some department heads making less than the people they supervise.”

Earlier this year, Walsh gave the city’s police and fire commissioner 15 percent raises, to $200,000.

Boston has a Compensation Advisory Board that offers guidance for the city’s elected officers and top officials. The board issued its last report in May 2013, but Mayor Thomas M. Menino took no action.

The report recommended increasing the pay scale for many top officials including the mayor, whose salary they suggested should be increased to $190,000. The report made no mention of raises for councilors. To make its recommendation, the board analyzed compensation in cities in New England and across the nation. With salaries of $87,500, Boston city councilors are paid more than their counterparts in Baltimore ($61,383), Houston ($55,770), Denver ($78,173), Cambridge ($73,362), and Worcester ($29,000), according to the report.


Councilors earn more in several cities, including New York ($112,500), Chicago ($116,674), Washington, D.C., ($125,583), and San Francisco ($105,723).

Linehan said he has not involved the Compensation Advisory Board in his proposal, but he is not “precluding them from participating.” He said he has been gathering data on pay in other cities — including Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York — and analyzing the population, number of councilors, and type of work they do.

The Boston City Council routinely scrutinizes the pay of other municipal employees, Linehan said. Now they must do it to themselves.

“It’s an awful position to be put in, to go out and suggest that this is what you’re worth, and then articulate it and vote on it yourself,’’ Linehan said.

Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed. Andrew Ryan is at andrew.ryan@globe.com.