Committee of Residents Will Make Recommendation for City Councilors’ Salaries

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Watertown City Hall

A committee of residents and property owners will be created to study what salary should be paid to Watertown City Councilors.

On Tuesday night, Councilors unanimously voted to create a Blue Ribbon Committee to study salaries.

City Council salaries must be approved by the Council, and when approved they do not take effect until the following term. In January 2023, the Council approved an increase of $1,200 per year to $8,700 a year for the Councilors and a $1,500 increase to $12,000 for the Council President. The increase was based on a 2.5 percent raise per year from 2018 to 2024. At the time the Council also voted to create a resident committee to study future raises.

The duties of the committee will be to study the salaries of the eight Councilors, and the City Council President, who also serves on the School Committee. The committee will “make recommendations on a methodology and process for salaries to be set going forward, including a recommendation for the 2026-2027 Council salary,” according to the report made by the Council’s Personnel and City Organization Committee.

The Blue Ribbon Committee will receive assistance studying what other communities do from City Council Policy Analyst Doug Newton. The recommendations will be presented to the Council by Dec. 10, 2024, and they will. be adopted no later than June 2025.

The Council also approved recommendations for who is and is not eligible to be on the Committee, as follows:

1. Members should live in, own property in, and/or work in Watertown.
2. Current elected officials of the City of Watertown should not be eligible, due to potential conflict of interest
3. Current employees of the city of Watertown should not be eligible, due to potential conflict of interest
4. Current members of city boards, commissions and committees should be eligible (including those individuals receiving a stipend)

Councilor Tony Palomba asked whether someone who owns property, but does not live in the community, who he referred to as an “absentee landlord,” would be eligible.

Councilor Caroline Bays, the Chair of the Personnel and City Organization Committee, said they would be eligible. She added: “The whole intent is to have people who are involved in Watertown and to try not to be non-inclusive.”

The list of desired skills, background and/or characteristics for the Blue Ribbon Committee are:

1. Members should have a strong commitment to and stake in Watertown’s success. A leadership role in local companies or non-profits – or service on City boards, commissions and committees – would be a strong indicator of commitment.
2. Desirable professional experience for the Committee includes (but is not limited to) human resources, compensation, law, finance or accounting, municipal government, business leadership, and management consulting.

The Committee will have seven members. The Personnel and City Organization Committee report said. that, “A team this size would be large enough to avoid quorum challenges, but not so large that it would be hard to recruit members.”

Recruitment of the Blue Ribbon Committee includes having the City Administration publicize the positions on as many channels as possible. It should happen as soon as quickly as possible after the Council approves the process. The deadline for applications must be set, and applicants should submit resumes and letters of interest to Municipal Policy Analyst Doug Newton.

The applications will be screened by the Personnel and City Organization Committee — Caroline Bays, John Gannon, and Nicole Gardner — plus City Council Vice President Councilor Piccirilli.

Council President Mark Sideris will conduct interviews with all qualified applicants, and will
recommend members for the Blue Ribbon Committee to the Council for approval.

The Personnel and City Organization report said that having President Sideris be the lone interviewer provides important benefits, including:

1. Simplicity. The approach does not trigger Open Meeting Law, so any complexity arising from various requirements it might impose can be avoided.
2. Privacy for the applicants. The interviews can happen in private, with no violation of Open Meeting Law, which should encourage more interested people to apply.
3. Efficiency and simplicity. The interviews can be scheduled quickly, since finding calendar appointments will be substantially simpler for one person than 9.

One thought on “Committee of Residents Will Make Recommendation for City Councilors’ Salaries

  1. I just watched the video recording of this meeting. A lot got done. I want to acknowledge the city for continuing to stand up a Human Right Commission. I heard the City Manager’s request for confirmation of appointment to the HRC. Sounds like a solid group of people!

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