Mayor gets support for a pay raise
It’s never easy for a politician to ask for a raise — especially when it’s a jaw-dropping 28 percent — but Newton’s Mayor Setti Warren may have picked an opportune time to request a $27,125 bump in his pay.
From venerable neighborhood joints in Nonantum to water-cooler websites for the politically inclined, Newton residents are sounding off about Warren’s proposal to raise his annual salary to $125,001 in the next fiscal year. Many agree: It’s not a bad idea.
“I don’t think that it’s unreasonable,” said Joseph DeLuca last week while he swept fallen leaves from the front entrance of his Carpetville store in Nonantum.
Down the road at Salvi’s Barber Shop, owner John Mula propped up a wood bench on the swivel chair for a young boy, his next customer. As he maneuvered around, snipping an inch off the child’s brown locks, Mula said chief executives earn plenty of money and Warren should make what other mayors do.
“As long as it’s in line with everybody else,” Mula said.
The boy’s mother, Marissa O’Malley, agreed. Newton’s The superintendent of schools earns twice as much as the mayor and that doesn’t make sense, she said.
Superintendent David Fleishman took home $254,574 last year. Warren’s salary has remained at $97,876 since he took office in 2010. The previous mayor, David Cohen, received the same amount.
“As long as they don’t raise our taxes, just give him the money,” O’Malley said.
Al Cecchinelli, the Newton Taxpayers Association’s president, said he doesn’t mind giving the mayor some sort of raise. But, Cecchinelli asked, does it have to be 28 percent?
“I think it’s too much at this time,” he said. “It’s not a career. It’s a public service position.”
But Jeff Seideman, who has fought past efforts to raise taxes through Proposition 2½ overrides, said being mayor is a tough job, and Warren should be paid appropriately.
“$125,000 for this level of city, with its budget, is not overpaying him,” Seideman said.
Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch gets $122,946, while Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy receives $124,889. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino makes $175,000.
On the Village 14 blog, a posting board for fans of Newton politics, 64 percent of the 42 responders to an online poll supported the pay raise proposal on Thursday afternoon.
Alderman Ted Hess-Mahan commented on the Newton Tab’s blog that it’s time to also take a second look at the annual salaries of aldermen ($9,750) and School Committee members ($4,875).
“We ought to be paid commensurate with what our duties are,” Hess-Mahan said in an interview with the Globe.
A 2005 commission that recommended raising the mayor’s salary to $125,000 also suggested increasing the salaries for the members of both boards, Hess-Mahan said.
He supports forming a another commission to study the issue, although the mayor’s salary should go up in the budget for next fiscal year, Hess-Mahan said.
“I don’t begrudge the mayor a raise,” he said. “It shouldn’t be so politicized.”
But in 2008, when Cohen asked to get the raise that the commission supported, residents were outraged. At the time, Cohen was also campaigning for a property tax increase to support city services, and many blamed him for the ballooning costs of the Newton North High Schoolbuilding project.
This is a different time, said Alderman Scott Lennon.
“We have a decent budget that’s been put forward, with no layoffs,” Lennon said.“There’s no real good time to do it, but I support the concept.”
Newton officials may have to ask for a tax increase to pay for a new elementary school, fire station and other infrastructure needs, but that is still months away.
The mayor’s proposed $27,125 raise is part of a $313 million budget, covering both school and municipal operations for the year starting July 1,that Warren presented last week. The fiscal year 2013 spending plan is 3 percent higher than the current budget, and includes a handful of new positions, and employee raises of 1.5 to 4 percent, and no layoffs.
The Board of Alderman will decide on Warren’s salary request when they vote on the budget later this spring.
Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at email@example.com.