From the public’s perspective, there’s never a good time to give a public official a raise. That’s why Newton Mayor Setti Warren’s inclusion of a 28 percent ($27,125) pay hike in his proposed fiscal 2013 budget is probably irritating a fair number of Newton taxpayers. This, when other city employees are getting a maximum hike of four percent. But the fact is, the raise for the Newton mayor is not only in order; it’s long overdue.
The mayor now earns $97,876. He is responsible for a municipal budget of more than $300 million and city services for 85,000 residents. After a rocky start and premature leap into the U.S. Senate race, Warren seems to have settled into the work, coming to grips with the delivery of services, negotiating contracts with municipal employees that wrung some savings out of workers health insurance coverage, communicating with residents and more.
But the raise is about more than Warren’s performance. It’s about the roles and responsibilities of the office. The mayor’s salary was set in 1998 and has not increased since then. The purchasing power of that salary has shrunk by 26 percent. Seven years ago, a special commission had recommended the increase. Then-mayor David Cohen had sought to implement the recommendation four years ago but, in the face of public outrage over expenditures for the new Newton North High School, withdrew his request. The Boston Globe
reports that the Mayor is the city’s 214th highest paid employee. That’s right, 214th. The Newton School Superintendent earns a quarter of a million dollars.
Surely, action is needed. I hope the 24-member Board of Aldermen sees it that way too. Future increases, however, would be more palatable if they were more modest and at more reasonable intervals.
I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts in the comments section below.