Melrose Mayor Robert J. Dolan is seeking a 25 percent pay raise, which would boost his annual salary to $125,000 starting Jan. 1, 2014.
Dolan (inset) now earns $99,896, the result of a pay increase approved by the Board of Aldermen in 2010. He now is seeking a pay day similar to other mayors and town managers in the area, he said.
“The mayor of Melrose is one of the lowest paid positions inside [Route] 128,” Dolan said in an interview Monday night. “I think this position needs to be competitive. You can’t work any other job. If I were to leave at some point, I think it’s critically important that this city has a chief administrator paid comparably to their peers in the public or private sector.”
A salary survey conducted by Melrose’s human resources department showed a vast difference in pay for town managers and mayors in 29 communities, stretching from Belmont to Weymouth.
Town managers in Reading, Wakefield, and Wilmington earn $140,000. The Stoneham manager is paid $124,565, and the Saugus town manager $114,585, according to the survey.
Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn earns $135,500; Malden Mayor Gary Christenson $114,000; Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria $105,000; and Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin $73,000, the survey said.
While some of the cities and towns included in the survey have larger populations than Melrose’s 26,983, neighboring Stoneham (21,437) and Wakefield (24,932) are smaller, according to 2010 US Census figures.
The survey data was sent on Tuesday to the Board of Aldermen, which ultimately must approve the mayor’s salary. On Monday, the board’s appropriations committee, which includes all 11 members, will meet at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall to discuss Dolan’s request.
“I am going to go to them, and ask them if they think the pay is worthy of the position,” said Dolan.
“The average for the area is $140,000, but I said, ‘Melrose is a lot like Stoneham. Let’s take $15,000 off the average.’ So that’s the number we’re going with.”
Dolan, 41, has been mayor for 12 years. He is in the second year of a four-year term. When it comes to paying Melrose employees, including union workers and department heads, he is the city’s chief negotiator.
“All 10 of my department heads earn more than I do,” he said. “We have 1,000 employees, all of whom have to come to me when they think their [pay rate] warrants action. In the case of my own job, I go to the Board of Aldermen.”
Two years ago, the aldermen rebuffed Dolan’s request for a 4.5 percent pay hike. The board ultimately approved a two-step increase: the mayor’s pay went from $95,563 to $98,907 as of Jan. 1, 2012. It was raised to the current salary on Jan. 1 this year.
Dolan this time appears determined to build public support for a pay raise. John McLaughlin, a resident, has sent a letter to friends seeking support for the increase.
In a letter addressed to “Dear Friend,” McLaughlin cites statistics from the city’s salary survey: In the 29 communities, the average pay for a mayor or town manager is $132,053. The average mayor’s salary is $120,019. The average salary for a mayor or town manger in the Middlesex League — the high school sports conference in which Melrose competes — is $136,588.
“There is a stark difference between the way Melrose compensates its Mayor and how surrounding communities compensate their Chief Executives,” wrote McLaughlin, the owner of a local insurance agency, whom Dolan appointed to the city’s building committee. “The current request is to adjust the salary to $125,000 to bring it closer to the compensation other communities are providing for this position.’’
One local resident, Maryan Hollis, filed a public records request on Tuesday with the city clerk’s office requesting copies of all e-mails, along with written, telephone, and in-person communications, made by Dolan, or any of his representatives, to the Board of Aldermen, or the public at large, regarding the pay raise.
Dolan said he will answer any and all questions. “We know that, in this business, whether you ask for 1 percent, or any amount, people are always going to ask why,” he said. “I have always tried to look at things clearly. I hope we can have a fair and civil discussion of the matter.”