Town Council Considering Whether to Give Itself a Raise

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Watertown City Hall

Watertown Town Hall

Watertown Town Hall

{This story was updated on April 15 at 4:10 p.m. to clarify the beginning of the new Council salary.}

The Town Council will consider giving itself a $1,500 raise, or boost of 50 percent – which would be the first increase in the new millennium.

Currently, Town Council members receive $5,000 per year, and the Council President receives $6,500, including a stipend for serving on the School Committee.

A proposal was made by the Personnel and Town Organization subcommittee to raise the salary to $7,500, according to the subcommittee’s report. Under the Town’s charter raise would not kick in until the beginning of the next Town Council term, which would be Jan. 1, 2018.

Looking at other communities with the city form of government (a council instead of selectmen and Town Meeting) in Eastern Massachusetts there is a range of councilor salaries. A few have volunteer boards, while most pay several thousand a year, and it can go up to $14,000 per year, in the case of Medford. Cambridge is an outlier, with councilors being paid more than $77,000.

The role of the councilors in Watertown has changed, said Councilor Michael Dattoli, who presented the subcommittee report at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.

“Members discussed that the scope of the Council’s work has changed, as there were not frequent committee meetings occurring at the same level ten to fifteen years ago,” Dattoli said.

If the council were to receive a 2 percent increase each year, their salary would have increased to $7,000. The subcommittee voted to recommend it be increased to $7,500. They also recommended the Town Council President receive $10,500 per year.

The increase will not be increased until a new ordinance is approved. This requires a public hearing, where residents can give input, at an upcoming Council meeting.

Council Minutes

In addition, the Council is looking at changing the way minutes are taken at subcommittee meetings.

Councilor Angeline Kounelis said it is difficult to do two things at once.

“I brought this up because it is difficult to participate at meetings appropriately and also take notes notes and later transcribe them,” Kounelis said.

Councilor Aaron Dushku said, “I couldn’t agree more.”

This is not a problem at regular Council meetings because the Council Clerk takes notes and writes up the minutes.

Looking at other communities, and only about one-third have councilors take notes at subcommittee meetings (including Palmer, Winthrop and Randolph). Those that do not have councilors often have the council clerk or staff member (Waltham, Arlington and Cambridge) or an independent person hired to do so (Weymouth).

Suggestions have been to hire someone to take minutes or to record the meetings and have the Council Clerk transcribe it later. The Council voted 8-0 to send it back to the Personnel and Town Organization subcommittee to come up with a proposal.

4 thoughts on “Town Council Considering Whether to Give Itself a Raise

  1. While I believe they deserve a raise. No current council should be able to vote itself a raise. It should apply to a successor council and the vote should take place before the next election, so a lame duck council or council which is essentially the same as an incoming council can’t vote itself a raise.

  2. I don’t get it. Councilor Dattoli was Watertown’s most vocal critic against Town Council compensation a year ago, and now he wants to give himself a 33% increase in salary after being on the job less than 3 months! While giving himself beefy increase, I saw no comment about eliminating the costly health insurance for town council members he was once so argued so vigorously against.

    Here’s a quote from one of his many letters, critical of the TC, to the editor dated 1/25/15 to the Watertown Tab,
    ” The August 2013 Fiscal Management Review prepared by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue suggested that the town “reconsider providing insurance benefits to elected officials”. This recommendation stemmed from a state audit that referenced Massachusetts General Law (chapter 32, section 2d) specifying that paid elected officials in Watertown do not meet the definition of employee based on the number of hours per week worked.”

    Sounds like both health insurance and now a big raise are in play…. Where’s all that tough talk now? It’s just sad that there’s a firefighter or teacher that isn’t going to get hired because Mike wants to line his (and his new TC friends) pockets with taxpayers money..

  3. Once they get elected, they ALL conveniently forget whatever promises they made. This is the People’s Republic of Massachusetts after all and the local party leaders don’t stray too far from the center…

  4. The fact of the matter is the Councilors deserve a raise. Their compensation has not been raised in more than fifteen years as I understand it. Whether you agree with all of them most of the time or not, I have personally witnessed the number of hours they put into the job. Watertown is no longer the sleepy little street car suburb it may have been decades ago. The Council faces challenges like no other time in the past. The demands, both in time and judgement, speak to the need for better compensation.

    If we want the best qualified Councillors possible, then the compensation must be reasonable. I see no need to strip the Council of health insurance. There should be every incentive for best possible candidates to seek the office. Bottom line: $5000 per annum plus health is not reasonable compensation for 30-40+ hours a week of intellectually demanding work.

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