Questions, not opposition, to raising Shelton mayor’s pay
Editor's note: The Board of Aldermen have subsequently approved the mayoral pay raise, voting 5-1 in favor of the proposal at the Feb. 11 aldermanic meeting. Alderman Jack Finn, the lone Democrat, voted no; two members were absent.
If the mayor of Shelton is going to be paid more, resident George Sender wants to establish specific goals for the occupant of that office to meet.
Like with a company CEO, if a mayor meets the defined criteria, then the mayor should get a corresponding raise, according to Sender.
A pay hike should be based on performance, he said, suggesting a bipartisan committee could be formed to make such decisions.
“I think maybe we should at least consider that,” said Sender, one of a handful of Shelton residents to speak during a recent public hearing on a proposed 23% increase in the mayoral salary.
Based on a procedure established by ordinance, the Board of Aldermen sets the mayoral salary every eight years, separate from annual cost-of-living increases.
Mayoral base salary is $110,200
Currently, Mayor Mark Lauretti is paid a base salary of $110,200. His actual city earnings for calendar year 2013 were $118,340, which includes all taxable income and taxable benefits.
An outside consultant hired by the aldermen, David Dunn, has recommended increasing that base pay to $135,700 over a three-year period.
Dunn also has suggested adjusting the salary every six years in the future.
The salary hike would take effect after the November mayoral election due to a state law that forbids passing and enacting salary increases for municipal elected officials in the same term.
Dunn was at the public hearing and gave a presentation on his recommendations. He also answered questions from the public and aldermen. He has worked as a human resources or labor consultant for 35 years, with a focus on the public sector.
Seeking details on process
During the hearing, no one spoke specifically against the pay hike. But speakers did ask for details about the overall compensation for a mayor, including the use of a city car, 401(k) contributions, health insurance, and other benefits.
“What is that total number?” asked resident Jerry Strevens.
Strevens wanted to know more about the process used by Dunn to conclude that the Shelton mayor should be paid more. “Is this arbitrary?” he asked.
“We just want to know how you arrived at your numbers,” Strevens said.
Sender also said the process could have been more transparent.
Strevens liked the idea of having an evaluation process, noting any salary hike also would benefit a lousy mayor in the future.
Like most speakers, Strevens was complimentary of the job being done by Lauretti. “I think the mayor has done a good job,” he said.
Resident Judson Crawford said a mayor is similar to a CEO, having oversight over all city departments. And he said a few other government workers in Shelton now make more than the mayor, in an apparent reference to school administrators.
Crawford, an active Democrat, said some of the information used by Dunn should have been made more readily available for public review.
Resident Michael Southam strongly supported raising the mayoral salary. “To me, it’s a no-brainer,” he said, emphasizing he’s not involved in local politics.
Southam said he’s been impressed with how efficiently municipal departments are run in Shelton, pointing to the library as one example. “This is an exceptionally well-run town,” he said, adding, “At the end of the day, they all work for the mayor.”
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Click below to read a story on the subsequent vote in favor of the pay raise by the aldermen:
Ruth Parkins also spoke in favor of increasing the mayoral salary. “Shelton is a very progressive, successful town,” and that requires good leadership, she said. Parkins chairs the Planning and Zoning Commission. She is an active Republican, as is Lauretti.
The Board of Aldermen is controlled by Republicans, 7-1.
John Anglace, aldermanic president, said the mayoral salary process was set up to be non-political about 16 years ago and has “proven to be straight-forward.”
He said a labor consultant from outside the city — such as Dunn — is used to offer guidance.
Any raise would be for whoever is mayor after this fall’s election,
Anglace said, noting voters have the ultimate say in whether a mayor is doing a good job at the ballot box every two years. If dissatisfied, they “can vote him out,” he said.
Anglace said the mayor gets the same benefits as other non-union city workers when it comes to healthcare coverage, retirement plan contributions and cost-of-living adjustments.
A mayor must work long hours and must be available 24/7, according to Anglace. Dunn pointed out a mayor doesn’t get paid overtime for night or weekend hours, unlike certain municipal workers.
Factors in the recommendation
Dunn based his recommendation 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 some police department members due to overtime, on the city side — now earning more than the mayor, according to Dunn.
Dunn also noted some municipalities have both mayors and appointed chief operating officers or deputy mayors, while Shelton does not.