Cumberland council tables measure to raise pay

Cumberland council tables measure to raise pay

CUMBERLAND – It’s been 18 years since Town Council members received a raise, says Councilor Bob Shaw, and after bumping up the mayor’s salary two years ago, there’s no reason future members of the governing board shouldn’t also receive an increase for their efforts.

At the council meeting last Wednesday, May 2, members discussed a Shaw-sponsored ordinance revision that would increase pay for council members from $2,400 to 7 percent of the mayor’s salary. The council president would receive an increase from $3,000 to 8 percent of the chief executive’s pay.

Both increases would go into effect after the next Town Council is sworn in, meaning current council members wouldn’t technically be voting to give themselves raises.

In 2016, the Town Council approved a $20,000 pay raise for the mayor’s position, with a starting pay of $88,000 starting in 2017 and climbing to $95,500 by 2020. Under those figures, calculated under Shaw’s proposal:

• A council member would have received $6,160 in 2017, jumping to $6,685 by 2020.

• The council president would have received $7,040 in 2017, jumping to $7,640 by 2020.

But other council members last week balked at those figures. Though they support giving the council raises, they voted to table the ordinance change as they discuss lower numbers.

Councilor Jim Metivier said he doesn’t know if the time was right to boost council salaries. He said he would be more comfortable with a smaller increase. Doing quick math, Metivier said a “modest” bump of 2.5 percent per year over the past 18 years would bring the council to about 4 percent of the mayor’s salary, and “definitely be more plausible” than the 7 percent number.

That smaller increase would bring council salaries to $3,480. The council president’s salary would be $4,350.

Council members asked School Committee Chairman Ray Salvatore how the school board voted on its raises, and Salvatore said members voted them down.

Shaw responded that the school board made the decision based on public perception at the time, but said he felt school officials did “an injustice” for those who occupy the positions in the future. There’s no good time to increase pay, he said, but the value of the work that council members do should bring greater compensation. A raise would more adequately reflect the work modern leaders are doing rather than those who were leading the town in the year 2000, he said.

Council members agreed that they put in far more work in the part-time positions than they could ever adequately be compensated for, though they noted that they understand this is a job they took to serve the public.

The Breeze reported in March that the school board voted 4-2 to reject pay increases. That bump of $1,000 would have brought committee members to $3,200 annually and the chairman to $4,000. Members said at the time that they believed elected leaders should get a raise after a lengthy period of no increases, but said the timing wasn’t right given current financial constraints.

At the Town Council meeting last week, Shaw said he didn’t disagree with Metivier that perhaps a lower figure would be more prudent, perhaps 5 percent instead of 7 percent for council members and 5.5 percent instead of 8 percent for the president.

Councilor Lisa Beaulieu said she doesn’t want to tie the council’s salary to the mayor’s pay, saying it’s “not the right approach.” A modest increase more in line with what Metiver suggested might be appropriate, she said, bringing the council “a little more current” with other boards across Rhode Island.

Councilor Craig Dwyer said he agreed that it’s time to increase pay for council members after 18 years without a raise, but said he doesn’t agree that it should be “anywhere near that figure” proposed by Shaw.

When the council approved higher pay for the mayor position in 2016, Mayor Bill Murray called the move “irresponsible,” taking issue with former Councilor Art Lambi’s statement that the higher salary would attract more qualified candidates. That raise was the first for the mayor since 2003.

It was Shaw who suggested at the time raising what was a $67,000 salary by a lower figure of $10,200, then bumping it up by $2,500 annually until it reached $85,000 in 2020.

“There’s no question this needs to be readdressed,” Shaw told councilors at the time. The $35,000 paid the first mayor in the 1970s equals $128,600 in today’s dollars, he said.

Shaw’s proposed move to boost the mayor’s salary was meant to bring Cumberland more in line with other communities.

Rhode Island municipalities vary dramatically on how much taxpayers reimburse council members for their work. According to the state’s most recent municipal salary survey, Lincoln council members earn $2,500, Pawtucket councilors earn $7,372, North Providence council members earn $8,000, North Smithfield councilors earn $2,000, Smithfield councilors earn $4,000, and Woonsocket council members earn $9,000. In Providence, council members earn $18,000 a year.

Also at the May 2 meeting, the council approved the 2018 Monastery Conservation and Management Plan reaffirming a commitment to prevent development of the Cumberland Monastery, among other goals for the property.

Comments

Serving in a Part Time elected office, School Committee or Town Council, etc., is almost like being a Volunteer...you're doing it, in most instances, because you care. You want to contribute...give back, etc.

Doing so, just as with any kind of a Volunteer work, almost always results in one incurring out-of-pocket costs.

How about we leave salaries where they are and we put put in place some form of a 'Per Diem' and a direct, job related, 'Expences Incurred' reimbursement policy...with very strict guidelines?

NOTE: And, I am not talking Election or Campaign Costs here!

I find it ironic that Mr. Shaw wants a raise when he is "crying" that Cumb. Schools need money. Why not give it to the schools Mr. Shaw? You've already admitted you don't care about how the raise in taxes effects seniors, so why would you care about schools when you can get more money. Thank you Mayor for keeping taxes down in spite of Mr. Shaw, Mr. Kane and Ms Beaulieu. Pay attention voters - vote them out!