NEW BRITAIN – A 13% salary increase for six elected city positions, including the mayor, was approved by Common Council during Wednesday’s regular meeting.
In an 8-3 vote, with Aldermen Aram Ayalon, Colin Osborn, Richard Reyes, and Alderwoman Iris Sanchez absent, the council approved increasing the salaries for the mayor, town clerk, tax collector, corporation counsel and two registrar of voters.
Because these positions have not been recognized by the council for about 14 years, Alderman Daniel Salerno said that is unconscionable for many reasons, including the amount of work that these positions are expected to deliver.
“I appreciate those who are in these positions today and we want to be able to appreciate those who will be in those positions in the future,” he said.
For the two registrar of voters positions, the increase will be effective with the November election to take effect on Jan. 5, 2021. For the mayor, town clerk, tax collector and corporation counsel, the increase will take effect after the Nov. 2021 elections.
Under the approved resolution, the mayor’s salary will increase from an estimated $87,971 to $99,407; the town clerk from $68,305 to $77,184; the registrar of voters from $54,626 to $61,727; tax collector from $70,772 to $79,972; and corporation counsel from $31,978 to $36,135.
Alderman Francisco Santiago, who was on the city’s compensation committee with Aldermen Wilfredo Pabon and Michael Thompson, said while he agreed that the positions needed salary increases, he doesn’t believe a 13% increase was appropriate for this time.
“I’ve never heard of a 13% raise in my life,” he said. “I could’ve agreed with a 5% raise with increments during the course of a few years until we get to a point where we’re suppose to be at. But not a big jump like this, especially with a pandemic going on where people are losing jobs, becoming homeless, and they’re just trying to put food on the table. I’m not against the raise, but the 13%.”
Based on the compensation committee meetings that happened over the last several months, the resolution originally called for a 15% salary increase.
During a committee meeting on Oct.7, Alderman Chris Anderson suggested a 5% salary increase across the board as opposed to the original 15% raise for the six positions. The original proposal would cost the city $55,000 and Anderson’s suggestion would come around $13,170.
After discussions, a compromise was met for a 13% increase.
“Given what we know about the state of the city’s finances, we have had actual deficits two of the last three years. I know we’re lucky enough to have a surplus this year, but we also know that the impacts of the pandemic have not made themselves known to us yet,” said Anderson, emphasizing the need for the city to be prepared for any potential revenue loss in the future.
Jonathan Perugini, deputy finance director, said during the committee meeting that because the increase for the two registrar of voters is for the next fiscal year and since the budget has already been adopted, the money will come out of the city’s $1.3 million in contingency funds, which includes unanticipated cost for elected, appointed, and management positions.
Once approved, the funding for the remaining positions will be a part of the department request budget for fiscal year 2022, under full-time salary for each department, said Perugini.
Alderman Howard Dyson said when things are put off year after year, eventually a decision has to be made to catch up.
“I do agree that we have to be concerned with finances,” he said, stating that he was comfortable with a compromise. “If they had raises two years ago, I would think differently. But because they haven’t had a raise in so long, I think we need to catch up somehow.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Anderson said he never argued that the positions don’t deserve a raise. In fact, he believes that all elected and appointed officials deserve a raise.
“My contention is with the amount, which is just too much given what we know about the continuing effects of the pandemic,” he said. “We have to make fair and balanced decisions based on the information that we have today, and it’s for that reason that I can’t support this with a clear conscience.”