City Council Gives First Raise to Peabody Mayor in 12 Years

Mayor Ted Bettencourt will receive just over a 10 percent pay bump. City councilors also gave themselves a raise along with school board members, although the councilors' raise doesn't start until 2014.

[Editor's Note: The article has been updated to clarify former Mayor Bonfanti's refusal to accept a pay raise and the council's actions in that regard.]

City councilor Dave Gamache has been trying for the past 12 years and he finally has a mayor now who appears open to receiving a pay raise.

The City Council voted Thursday night to hike the mayor's base pay to $105,000, which is just over a 10 percent increase from the current $94,933 salary and will mean Mayor Ted Bettencourt will now earn the same or slightly more than his many of his senior department heads.

The new salary will take effect once the ordinance is adopted, likely next month.

Gamache says the higher salary is long overdue, especially given that all other city employees have received regular raises in that time, and better reflects what other area mayors earn.

"If the mayor took the...same amount given to unions since 2001, his salary would be $121,000," said Gamache. "I think mayor should be at least one of the top ten paid employees."

He called the situation "absurd" as the mayor is responsible for hundreds of city employees and a $140 million budget while .

"It used to only be the superintendent who made more than the mayor, but now all sorts of other employees do and that’s just not right," said Jim Liacos.

Former Mayor Michael Bonfanti routinely refused to accept a pay raise each year, citing a desire to set an example during tight financial times. Correspondingly, a majority of the council could never agree to give him a raise anyway, although Gamache tried.

And now, Bettencourt is slated for a raise after his first year on the job. Bettencourt was not present for the vote Thursday night and could still choose to decline a raise as well.

"You know, there never seems to be a good time to talk about increasing salaries in the public sector. It seems like it’s always a bad time," remarked Dave Gravel, who's also a local business owner. "Whatever your job is, you have to be compensated fairly."

Mike Garabedian agreed. "One hundred five thousand is still not enough for the chief executive of the city, but it’s a start," he said.

Garabedian said the council should set aside a certain percentage increase each year for the mayor regardless of whether he accepts it so that large adjustments aren't needed again in the future.

"Ten years later, it should not be $105,000 when the whole world’s making $180,000," he said.

The vote, as in the past, wasn't unanimous among councilors at 8-2 (Bob Driscoll was absent). Both Rico Mello and Anne Manning-Martin opposed handing out raises.

Manning-Martin said Bettencourt worked "his tail off" in his first year and her vote did not reflect his job performance.

"It's more a reflection on the economy and the struggles people are going through," she said. "There should be a correction made in the mayor’s salary, but I don’t think this is the time to do it."

The larger salary does place Bettencourt squarely among his North Shore peers -- Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon earned $106,047 in 2011 and has received pay raises in recent years while Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll's salary is $100,000. It was only a few years ago that her salary was bumped up $20,000.

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy currently earns $82,500, but that's due to a dispute over how the mayor's salary is set. The Daily Item of Lynn reports the Lynn City Council last voted on that salary in 1998 and since then the mayor has been considered a department head with a negotiated salary and other perks.

Councilors and school board members get a raise too

Twelve years ago was also the last time Peabody city councilors gave themselves a raise and Gamache thought that was long overdue as well. Liacos, a former School Committee member, said it was only fair if school board members got a bump too (they've been waiting since 1998).

Councilors voted 7-3 (Gravel, Manning-Martin and Mello all said "no") to increase their salaries to 9 percent of the mayor's salary, starting in 2014, and give school board members an $1,100 raise. They will now earn $5,100 for their service while councilors will earn about $9,450 (up from $7,466).

Until now, the council's salary was not tied to the mayor's, but the majority of councilors agreed with Gamache to keep their salary now at 9 percent of the mayor's pay going forward.

Gamache noted Salem councilors receive 10 percent of their mayor's salary and Beverly councilors receive about $12,000 while Lynn and Revere councilors earn around $15,000.

"Not one of us in this council chamber took this job for the money," Garabedian said.

Peabody councilors also receive an $1,800 stipend and have access to city health insurance.

Mello did offer his own amendment to the motion to instead tie councilors' salaries to changes in property taxes -- if taxes increased by a certain percentage councilors' salaries should correspondingly decrease or vice versa.

Mello was the only one to vote for his proposal.

Saber Walsh February 15, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Easy solution. Tie the mayor's salary to the cost-of-living index, and give increases annually based on that. NO MORE pensions, but maybe have City match 401(k) or whatever government equivalent is. Tying income to property tax is just like giving crack to addicts... dumb.
mom February 15, 2013 at 03:42 PM
Really Mr Garabedian, Really!! If you didn't take the job for the money then refuse the raise, but you voted yes! Under the guise of voting in a raise for the mayor you all gave yourselves and your buddies on the school committee a raise! That's a nice fast one if i do say so myself. You went from 1 raise to 17!! In this economy when we are all cutting back you are taking more, health care and i-pads and data packages all add up to more money for the city to pay and that is my takes! Oh yeah they went up this year again!!
Lisa February 15, 2013 at 05:42 PM
I think the fact it has been over a decade for any raise reflects the economic climate we have been in. Should we wait another decade? I don't see the big deal, we aren't talking big bucks here and no just like underpaid teachers they aren't here for the money. Hopefully we can secure our good teachers with proper contracts soon too.
Kristin Cafarelli February 15, 2013 at 05:59 PM
Bettencourt hasn't proven himself yet. As far as I'm concerned, he is a probationary employee and should not even be eligible for a salary increase yet. Furthermore, to say that it's been 12 years since "the mayor" has had an increase is completely inaccurate and does not represent the truth. While I did not like Bonfanti, I have to respect the fact that he declined any salary increases while he was in office. The reason there has not been a salary increase in 12 years is partially due to HIS decision not to take an increase. Bettencourt has no idea what financial hardship means, as he already makes 2-3 times more than most of the working class people in Peabody make. The people he serves in the city have not had cost of living salary increases, yet their cost of living does increase every year. I really hope he does the right thing by his citizens and declines this irresponsible vote by the council.
Andrea Harry February 15, 2013 at 07:04 PM
This is insane. Whether he takes the raise or not, the problem is that it was approved. These are not the times to be giving out raises to people who already make almost 100k!!!! Not saying that anytime in the near future is going to be better but these politicians are already getting paid more than enough. They knew the pay when they entered the race and now it’s not good enough????? I hope they all decline the offer of the raise.
David MacDonald February 15, 2013 at 07:05 PM
All civil servants deserve opportunity to increase earnings, at minimum, the cost of living, many of these elected officials are making sacrifices from higher paying opportunities to serve our city. Besides, they have to endure constant criticism from Monday morning quarterbacks.
David MacDonald February 15, 2013 at 07:07 PM
And for the mayor, this is not a 40 hour work week, he is on call 24/7 and responds everytime he is needed.
Lisa February 15, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Kristen, you contradict yourself about the 12 years...the council suggests the raises not the mayor himself and the raise is for the position Mayor not the person specifically in office. Bettencourt certainly would be earning more at as attorney, his former profession.
Lisa February 15, 2013 at 07:18 PM
The job of mayor is a profession that usually earns more than a blue collar working job. I think Peabody looks stupid to not be in line with other similar towns...now we need to pay the teachers better for our kids or have they not suffered enough either?
mom February 15, 2013 at 07:31 PM
David, are you serious, they all take the health care from the city & that is something that they would have to pay for from their other jobs so that is income! Some of them take single payer and not the family plan because it saves them money yet cost the city more! Then they are also all going to get a pension from the city, more money for their retirement costs!.The opportunity to increasing their earning is off our taxes! The only job performance we get to do is an election and you know how that works in Peabody,all about name! And if you would name one of our city councils that sacrifices a higher pay opportunities for our city id like to know who that is. We have a mailman, a car salesman, teachers 1 retired a one still working, a clerk & 2 that are self employed so what big time money maker are they giving up??? They were much more interested in giving themselves raises not the mayor. As for the constant criticism that is what they signed up for. They knew what they were doing when they ran for the office, i dont give up my rights to disagree just because they were elected!
mom February 15, 2013 at 07:42 PM
No one has a problem with the mayor getting a raise, it is a 24/7 job. But now we are giving raises to everyone. The school are still in bad shape so why give a raise to the CC? If we made their pay contingent on the school performance they wouldn't be paid at all!!
David MacDonald February 15, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Wow, they really have it made, maybe you should try to take one of their seats, so you have it made too.
David MacDonald February 15, 2013 at 08:06 PM
Mom's evaluation of the committee defines the group as a group of 'givers to the community'....I respect that, they should be rewarded, and I hope it motivates them to continue to work hard for the community and inspire others to get involved. Keep up the good work councilors, mind no attention to those that hide behind code names and criticize.
mom February 15, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Kristen, if you are going to get technical, yes the council brought up the raise for the mayor as they do every year. But this time they added themselves in. If you listened they dont like having to give themselves raises so they want to tie it to the mayors raise, which they are required or review every year! Now that leads to another whole issue, they can give the mayor a raise every years and get one THEMSELVES without talking about it! Very smooth move. As for earnings, the Mayor may make more as attorney on his own but he would also be paying all his own expenses from those earnings starting with health care and if you have ever looked at those statements, that is a huge amount for a family with 3 small kids. So his take home pay would most likely be less. But again I do think the Mayor should be paid more. It is the changing of the rules the councillors did to benifit themselves that i dont like.
Kristin Cafarelli February 15, 2013 at 08:24 PM
I am on-call 24/7 for my job as well, and get paid a fraction of this. Not a solid argument. And Peabody already does pay the mayor more than other cities. Did you not see the comparison of other cities and towns? A significant number of mayors get paid less than $95,000 - Bettencourt's current salary.
Kristin Cafarelli February 15, 2013 at 08:26 PM
it is ultimately Bettencourt's decision to accept or decline the proposed salary increase. Considering we are who he serves, we should have the right to vote if he deserves an increase or not. He hasn't even proven himself yet!
John Castelluccio (Editor) February 15, 2013 at 10:16 PM
"mom," just so you know, only four of the 11 city councilors take the city's health insurance. They are Rico Mello, Barry Sinewitz, Michael Garabedian and Tom Gould. Also, I ask that you abide by the Terms of Use policy for Patch and use your name when commenting. Thanks.
Mark Smith February 16, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Let me get this straight, Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz votes against all city employee raises, votes himself a raise AND takes the city's health insurance! It's time for this guy to go. Unbelievable.


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