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Salem

Councilors plan pay raise for mayor, and themselves

Salem Mayor Kimberley L. Driscoll.

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff/File 2010

Salem Mayor Kimberley L. Driscoll.

Salem city councilors are weighing a $20,000 salary increase for Mayor Kimberley L. Driscoll, a proposal that would trigger a $2,000 boost in their own pay.

Under the plan, the mayor’s annual salary would rise from the current $100,000 to $120,000 at the start of the fiscal year July 1, an increase supporters said is needed to ensure that the city attracts qualified future candidates for the job.

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Because city ordinances provide for councilors to earn 10 percent of the mayor’s salary, the proposal would raise their pay from $10,000 to $12,000. But the 12-member council is considering whether to have its increase take effect in January 2016, so that it would not be available to current councilors unless they win reelection in 2015.

“I think we need to compare the mayor’s salary not only to the mayor, but also to city managers who make considerably more money,” said Councilor Todd A. Siegel of Ward 3, who proposed the $20,000 raise.

He also said that Driscoll (inset) “is not even in the top 50 earners in the city.”

“I recognize the amount of hard work and effort she puts into her job, and I think you want to have a position where, if this mayor were to leave, you want something that is going to attract people from outside the public sector,” Siegel said.

A survey of local cities by Salem’s human resources office found that total pay for mayors averages $111,966.

Among cities that have higher mayoral salaries, Somerville pays $145,000; Medford, $131,015; Braintree, $125,020; Melrose, $125,000; Quincy, $122,474; Revere, $118,521; Malden, $114,400; New Bedford, $112,420; and Weymouth, $110,000. Others include Beverly, which pays $106,000; Everett and Peabody, both $105,000; and Newburyport, $101,000.

The mayors in Gloucester and Lawrence earn $100,000. The only cities with lower mayoral salaries were Haverhill, which pays $90,000, and Lynn, $82,500.

The survey also listed the pay for three area town managers. In Danvers, the manager earns $192,396, set to rise to $197,206 on July 1. The town administrator in Marblehead earns $127,991, and the pay in Swampscott is $134,300, set to rise to $135,252 on July 1.

Driscoll, who began her third four-year term as mayor in January, did not request the pay increase and is not involved in the discussions. Her chief of staff, Dominick Pagnallo, said the mayor would have no comment on the matter.

Salem last raised the mayor’s pay when it went from $80,000 to $100,000 for 2010. It was at that time that the salary of councilors was pegged to 10 percent of the mayor’s pay. Prior to that, councilors earned an $8,000 salary and a $2,000 stipend, so the change resulted in no net increase.

Last year, a proposal to increase the mayor’s salary to $105,000 failed to get out of committee. Under the city charter, the mayor’s pay is set by the council’s Administration and Finance Committee, subject to approval by the full council.

Councilor Josh Turiel of Ward 5 said that Salem’s mayoral salary is “reasonable but a little on the low side” compared with what mayors earn in cities in the immediate area.

But he said town managers “make substantially more” for what he said is a comparable job.

“This mayor has obviously shown that she is willing to do the job regardless of the pay level, so it’s not so much for her as it is trying to fairly compensate the job and . . . to make sure it’s enough of a pay level that people who are experienced, who are skilled, potential strong candidates, aren’t going to say it’s ridiculous,” Turiel said.

Councilor at Large Thomas H. Furey, a longtime advocate for higher pay for the mayor’s position, said he was pleased by the new proposal.

“I’m very excited and enthusiastic about her getting $120,000,” he said. “It gives the office of the mayor credibility and professionalism for the 21st century.”

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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