Consultant recommends big raise for Shelton mayor’s job

The public will get to weigh in on the idea of raising the Shelton mayor’s salary by at least 23% over a three-year period.

That’s what management consultant David Dunn has recommended as part of a mayoral salary study that takes place every eight years.

Dunn said the salary increases should come on top of annual cost-of-living (COL) increases for a mayor that now are in the 2% to 2.5% range.

“Some people may think it is a lot of money at this point in time, but I would say if you were giving the position the respect it deserves, in my estimation you would need to pay him more money,” Dunn said at a recent Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee meeting, according to the minutes.

Dunn based his recommendations on the salaries earned by mayors, first selectmen, town/city managers, and chief operating/administrative officers at comparable municipalities around the state.

Another factor was the earnings of other Shelton city and education employees, with some school administrators and municipal workers — primarily police department members due to overtime, on the municipal side — now earning more than the mayor, according to Dunn.

Salary jumps from $110,200 to $135,700

Mayor Mark Lauretti earns an annual salary of $110,193, based on Dunn’s report, and under the consultant’s proposal his salary would go up to $135,659 over three years, without the COL increases being factored in.

The mayor’s salary does not include an additional payment of 8% of his salary that he receives toward his 401(k) retirement plan. Other city employees receive 6% of their salaries for their 401(k).

The mayor also gets use of a city vehicle, and life and dismemberment insurance, plus many of the same benefits as other government employees — such as medical and dental insurance coverage.

According to information provided to the Shelton Herald earlier this year, Lauretti made $118,340 in calendar year 2013. That amount includes all taxable earnings and benefits.

Mayor's pay set by ordinance

The mayor’s salary is set by ordinance, and goes up by a calculated COL amount every year. A salary review is conducted every eight years, with the aldermen then voting to possibly adjust the salary.

Before such a vote can take place, a public hearing must be held. That hearing should be scheduled for Jan. 27.

In Shelton, mayoral salary hikes have traditionally taken effect sometime in November.

Dunn initially had recommended implementing the three years of salary hikes as soon as possible, but he seemed to be unaware of a state law that forbids passing and enacting salary increases for municipal elected officials in the same term.

Once passed, salary increases may not be put into effect until after the next municipal election. This is so the increases are seen as being for a position and not for a specific individual.

John Anglace, aldermanic president, said Corporation Counsel Thomas Welch had caught this oversight while reviewing Dunn’s proposal, “so [Dunn] revised his schedule.”

If approved by the aldermen, the recommended mayoral salary hikes to $119,176 in year one, $129,293 in year two and $135,659 in year three would not begin until after the November 2015 election, when Shelton residents will vote for mayor. These are the increases without the COL adjustments.

Aldermen also may change the frequency with which the Shelton mayoral salary is reviewed from every eight years to every six years.

'Let’s see what the public has to say'

Anglace said the potential salary hike shouldn’t be viewed as possibly benefiting Lauretti, a fellow Republican, but judged instead on whether Shelton is paying its mayor a fair amount when compared to other towns.

“This isn’t about the mayor or his performance,” said Anglace, noting the aldermen are following the ordinance as they consider the issue.

Alderman Jack Finn, the board’s only Democrat, said he is reserving judgment until after the public hearing. “Let’s see what the public has to say,” he said.

Finn said he has heard from concerned seniors whose Social Security COL adjustments are lower than what the mayor and other city employees are getting.

Reasons given in Dunn's study

While looking at salaries, Dunn primarily compared Shelton to cities with populations in the 40,000 to 45,000 range. Comparable towns include Enfield, Groton, Norwich, Southington, Torrington, and Trumbull.

Shelton now has slightly more than 40,000 residents, and previous mayoral salary comparisons had been made with towns under 40,000.

The Shelton mayor now earns less than the police chief, potentially the finance director, and at least four school administrators, Dunn said.

Dunn said the mayor is on call 24/7 and receives no overtime, and noted many other towns pay two people to run their communities — both a chief elected official and chief appointed official.

“The basic argument is that the [Shelton] mayor has not been paid competitively compared to other chief executives in the state of Connecticut, and even in this town, for a number of years,” Dunn said.