Some on Amherst city council are demanding a raise — for the mayor.
On the eve of the election, mayor David Taylor suggested 1.5 percent raises across the board in 2016 for council, the clerk of council, safety-service director, law director, and mayor in 2016.
Every year thereafter, administrative and elected officials’ salaries would be tied to negotiated contracts with Amherst unions.
“I think it’s a fair and equal way for everybody, and it makes it easier for future councils and future administrations,” he argued.
The suggestion didn’t sit well with councilman Joe Miller.
“Where I struggle is with the actual pay for a full-time mayor in a city such as ours with 12,000 residents and a nickel more,” he said. “I think that it’s underpaid. I think the mayor’s position is well underpaid.”
He suggested moving more money to the mayor and freezing his own salary if necessary to make it work.
Taylor rebuffed the idea, saying mayoral candidates shouldn’t choose to run based on how much the job pays. “When they filed to run, they knew what it paid. If it was too low, they shouldn’t have filed,” he said.
During his 12-year tenure at city hall, Taylor froze his salary. He told council he felt it was more important to give that money to police officers and firefighters.
Those jobs are paid from Amherst’s general fund, where money is the tightest.
Councilman Phil Van Treuren agreed with Miller.
“I do hope that whoever is our next mayor will consider raising the mayor’s salary each year by more than 1.5 percent,” he said.
Van Treuren worried that eight or 12 years down the road pay for the mayor’s seat will have fallen far behind the pace of inflation.
He feels “the problem is we’re only going to attract candidates that perhaps don’t have the background and experience for the position.”
Again, Taylor shook his head.
Council can’t justify giving safety forces 1.5 or 2.5 percent raises while the mayor’s salary surges by 15 percent, he said: “I know we probably all deserve more money. That’s not the question.”
Emergency workers are compensated justly, Miller said. He said a large number of city workers make more than the mayor — who is entrusted to lead the city — and that Taylor’s years of pay freezes are “coming to roost.”
“We have to pony up, take our abuse from the public, and take a beating at the polls,” he said, advocating raises and acknowledging that two highly qualified mayoral candidates are on this year’s ballot. “There may not be a (David) Kukucka or (Mark) Costilow out there. We may not have that luxury.”
Council president John Dietrich weighed in.
“You’re not going to get someone running for mayor off the street. Normally it’s someone who has been on council or being working in the city who knows what’s going on,” he said.
Councilman Steve Bukovac suggested considering larger hikes starting in 2020 rather than 2016.
The matter was moved forward to the floor, where it will come to a vote next Monday.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
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