Metro

Experts at hearing agree Boston city officials should get a raise

Boston’s head of human resources said that amid a thriving economy, City Hall faces increased competition for top talent.
Keith Bedford/Globe Staff
Boston’s head of human resources said that amid a thriving economy, City Hall faces increased competition for top talent.

City officials, private consultants, and government watchdogs seem to be in agreement: Boston’s top public officials need a raise.

City councilors heard nothing but affirmations at a hearing on Thursday about Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s recent proposal to increase the maximum pay range for more than 20 positions in the administration, and to raise the mayor’s and councilors’ salaries by just over 4 percent.

The pay range extensions for various city officials would go into effect immediately, but would not change anyone’s salaries right away. The mayoral and councilor increases wouldn’t take effect for several years.

Advertisement

At the hearing, Vivian Leonard, the city’s director of human resources, said that amid a thriving economy, City Hall faces increased competition for top talent.

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“We’re all drawing from the same talented applicants in terms of leadership,” she said.

Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, told the Committee on Government Operations that the salary evaluation process was working just as the bureau had envisioned years ago when it recommended creating the Compensation Advisory Board, which commissioned the report underlying the mayor’s proposal.

“This is worth the expense of having a professional firm on contract,” Tyler said.

The review has cost $128,000 so far, according to Emme Handy, the city’s chief financial officer.

Advertisement

Under Walsh’s proposal, the mayor’s salary would increase from $199,000 to $207,000 after the 2021 mayoral election. The 13 councilors would see their paychecks jump from $99,500 to $103,500 after next year’s elections.

Those changes are meant to reflect an uptick in the cost of living in Boston, given the city’s requirement that all its employees live within city limits. No one at the hearing objected to them, though City Councilor Matt O’Malley acknowledged: “It’s always awkward when you’re voting on your own salary.”

Walsh based his recommendations on a study conducted by an independent consulting firm hired by the Compensation Advisory Board. The board has evaluated city officials’ salaries since it was formed in the late 1980s. No salary adjustments were made immediately after the board’s last evaluation in 2013, according to Handy, though the mayor and city councilors saw raises in 2015.

In this case, the independent review found that salaries for many positions in the city government lagged behind those in similar cities, and trailed even further behind compensation for similar positions in the private sector.

Jamie Halper can be reached at jamie.halper@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.