City Council discusses doubling its pay

Whether it is to try to entice more people to run for public office, or to bring its salary up to a level with surrounding communities, the City Council has begun discussions on doubling the salary for its members.

Monday night, the council held a subcommittee meeting to consider a motion by Ward 1 Councillor Todd Taylor to double City Council salaries from $14,000 to $28,000 per year.

“I wanted to bring this issue to all of you, and I thought that it merited a serious discussion,” said Taylor. “The reason I’m bringing forward this increase in the annual salary of the City Council is as an incentive for more people to get involved and to try to entice more people into running. We have a lot of uncontested races where I don’t think that is necessarily healthy; not very many people are willing to serve.”

In addition, Taylor said surrounding communities with similar demographics have council salaries more in line with the $28,000 than the $14,000 Chelsea councillors currently earn.

Ward 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero said he would like to see a more modest salary increase for councillors, but added he would like to see health insurance offered for the council.

“Like everyone else gets healthcare, we should get healthcare for us,” said Recupero. “We are supposedly employees of the city, but we don’t get healthcare.”

Councillor-At-Large Damali Vidot said that apart from the salary increase, there needs to be a larger discussion about civic participation in Chelsea. 

“I don’t have an opinion,” said Vidot. “I think it’s very interesting, and I think potentially the increase in salary might bring more people in, but what happens when people don’t show up?”

Vidot noted that in the past, there has been a discrepancy between the amount of work some councillors have put into the office.

District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia said she was hesitant about moving forward with a large salary increase without knowing how it would impact the overall city budget.

“The reasons for doing this, I think, are many,” said Taylor. “It’s not just to get people interested, although that is the primary motivation for me. When I try to get people to run for City Council, the thing they say is that it’s not worth it and that it’s a lot of headaches for $14,000 a year.”

Taylor added that Chelsea councillors are vastly underpaid compared to surrounding communities.

“I can’t speak for myself, but I know what I do and there are many, many hours that I spend with constituents on the phone trying to solve problems, and in consultation with other councillors on different issues,” said Taylor. “A lot of time gets taken up with this job.”

Council President Roy Avellaneda said that he doesn’t believe a salary increase should be tied to increasing participation, but added that many surrounding communities pay their council significantly more than in Chelsea. He said Revere councillors make a little over $30,000 per year, Everett councillors earn $24,000, Lynn councillors earn $25,000 with an additional $2,000 for the president, and Quincy councillors make $35,000.

“I think we should fairly compensate anyone sitting up here who takes this job,” said Avellaneda.

When unions come in to negotiate with the city, Avellaneda said one of the points they typically bring up is that they are underpaid compared to surrounding communities.

“And we say that’s a fair argument,” said Avellaneda.

Avellaneda said a pay increase for the council is a difficult topic to talk about.

“I get the angst about what we deserve for pay, and it’s never the right time,” said Avellaneda. “Every time this is ever discussed, it’s never the right time. But I think our job is harder (than in other cities) because of the needs that this community has.”

Taylor said he wasn’t committed to the doubling of the salary, but said it was a discussion the council should be having.

“I think this just needs to be brought up and discussed among the City Council and the public and then we can see where we are,” said Taylor.

Vidot said the council should continue the discussion at a future council subcommittee on conference meeting.

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