The salary of Braintree's mayor could rise as early as 2014, after a Town Council Committee recommended an increase to $125,000 a year.
The Ways and Means Committee voted 3-to-1 Wednesday night for the higher figure, with Councilor Paul “Dan” Clifford abstaining and Councilor Sean Powers voting against the measure.
If approved by both the Rules and Ordinance Committee and the full council, the new salary would be a 19 percent increase from the $105,000 annual salary that has been in place since Braintree changed to a mayoral form of government in 2008.
Councilors have been discussing a possible salary increase since August, when John Mullaney suggested a raise to $130,000 for Mayor Joseph Sullivan.
Mullaney has since defended his proposition, noting that more than 100 town employees are paid more than the mayor.
Elsewhere, Mullaney said the mayor’s salary pales in comparison to town managers and executive secretaries in communities nearby, all of who have comparable responsibilities.
"We were at the point to make a decision,” Mullaney said in a phone interview after the meeting, adding that a new salary of $117,000 to $130,000 was under consideration.
The rate was calculated using average cost-of-living increases over the last four to five years, which had increased approximately 2.25 percent. Some towns also allow a $5,000 car allowance, which was also considered fair.
Mullaney suggested that rather than giving the mayor an allowance, it made more sense to give the mayor a flat rate, and so $125,000 became the final number.
“I realize that jump in salary is hard to take. But I believe the mayors are underpaid,” Mullaney said. “They are not only executive secretaries and town managers, they need the political skill to make a town run and get elected. Town managers don’t have to do that.”
Though two other councilors agreed that $125,000 was a good number, some still felt it was too large.
Clifford did not immediately return calls for comment. For Powers, not enough due diligence had been done to make a decision.
“I think we need more information concerning where we want it to go and examine the other areas that Councilor Clifford wanted to examine. I think that additional information wouldn’t hurt the process, so that’s why I voted 'no,' ” Powers said in a phone interview.
Powers said that ideally, the increase would have factored in raises given to non-union personnel over the last four years, or factors including cost-of-living increases, education incentives, or longevity payments.
“It seems like $130,000 was originally proposed and $125,000 was the compromise. I don’t know how they got to $125,000,” Powers said.
Although he differed on the amount, Powers did agree that a salary change was in order.
In fact, when out and about in the community, he said, the overwhelming majority of people agreed that the salary should be raised.
“For everything this position has to deal with on a constant basis, 24/7, the responsibilities and challenges, [people said] $105,000 seems low. And I agree with them,” Powers said. “But I can’t come to a figure that sounds good. I need to be able to justify it to folks.”
According to the specifications within the town’s charter, a new salary would have to be voted on by midyear (within 18 months of the council’s new term in January 2012) to take effect in a new term.
The recommendation will now make its way to the Rules and Ordinance Committee, where it will be vetted again by Powers, Clifford, and Mullaney. Councilor Leland Dingee will also join the discussion.
A final vote will have to be taken by the full council.