PITTSFIELD -- The politically charged topic of pay raises for city department heads shows no sign of a resolution, after the City Council's Ordinance and Rules Committee voted 2-2 Monday on the proposal.
First proposed by Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi in early May as a way to bring salaries for city managers more in line with other communities in the state, the new salary schedule has been debated during two meetings of the committee, which was asked by the council for a recommendation.
Committee Chairman Christopher Connell, the Ward 4 councilor, and Council President Melissa Mazzeo said they met twice with the consultant who helped prepare the new pay schedule for supervisors, and a number of reductions in the salary plan were agreed upon.
Bianchi told committee members that he also reviewed the package again and made further reductions. The total raise package now stands at about $188,000, Connell said.
He and Bianchi stressed that after an initial higher pay rate, future raises for supervisors would be tied to performance in the job. "This is a great step forward, tying this to performance," Connell said.
He added that "we have got to start somewhere" to bring city department head salaries more in line with other communities.
Mazzeo argued that the salary study -- performed for the city by Rachel Brown of Stone Consulting -- showed Pittsfield to be at a competitive disadvantage in retaining good supervisors.
Compared to other municipalities, some "are grossly underpaid," Mazzeo said, adding that in some cases the city must hire inexperienced managers, who then leave for more lucrative posts when they gain experience.
Councilor Kathleen Amuso said she believes department heads are generally deserving of raises, but some of the proposed pay hikes were 25 to 40 percent. "I am not prepared to vote for this tonight," she said. "I would have to look at some of the percentage increases."
Mazzeo said those positions receiving higher percentage increases under the proposal are those determined in the study to be paid furthest below their peers around the state.
Similar positions in the School Department also are often paid at a much higher level than employees at City Hall, Mazzeo said.
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said he understands the rationale for the raises but he couldn't support the raises because "this still hurts the taxpayers," many of whom he said are under financial pressure and haven't seen a pay raise in their jobs.
The committee, with Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop absent, voted 2-2 on its recommendation to the full council on the revised salary schedule.
A proposed higher salary for the mayor's position and the city clerk's post, both elected, will be considered separately by the committee and council.
Lothrop also has proposed payment for the School Committee, which now receives no compensation.
The council next meets on Aug. 12.
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