Pittsfield City Council approves raises for department heads
PITTSFIELD -- A new pay schedule for city department heads, which includes raises as well as performance requirements for future pay hikes, was approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The council voted 9 to 2 to accept a modified salary schedule from the one submitted by Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi in the spring. The process of subcommittee review leading to the vote also followed a consultant's study that showed city pay levels were below average for similar communities and positions.
The mayor said his goal was to bring manager salaries more in line with those of other communities, with the aim of reducing turnover and improving departmental efficiency by retaining experienced employees.
"I know this is politically very difficult to do," Bianchi said following the council's approval. "I know some people were unhappy, but this is something that had to be done."
The council voted to make the raises, which had been proposed to be retroactive to July 1, 2013, retroactive to July 1 of this year, the start of the new fiscal year.
In total, Bianchi said, the raises for 25 managers will cost about $193,000, based on some further adjustments he plans for eight positions in the percentage of the initial raises. The total cost as referred from the council's Ordinance and Rules Committee on a split 2-2 vote was $228,000.
Councilor at large Kathleen Amuso and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi voted against the salary plan. Amuso, as she had at the subcommittee level, said she believes some of the initial raises were too high, in the range of 25 to 40 percent, although she agreed raises were justified.
Morandi maintained his prior position that city taxpayers "continue to struggle" and cannot afford tax increases.
During the committee review of Bianchi's proposal, councilors decided to consider his salary, along with that of councilors, School Committee members and the city clerk separately at a future meeting, as they are elected officials. In the mayor's case, he also is in a position to propose raises.
However, on Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop's motion, the council put the clerk's post back into the list of department heads, where it was in the original proposal. Although she is an elected official, she cannot propose pay hikes, he and other councilors said, and is primarily a department head.
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell and Bianchi noted during the debate that the new pay schedule also includes the option of the mayor approving or withholding future pay hikes based on a manager's performance. Previously, raises were based primarily on years of service.
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo said he was persuaded to vote in favor in part by the high level of turnover among city managers in recent years. "That really stood out," he said, adding that there are "indirect costs" to the city in recruiting and then training new department heads that could be avoided with a higher pay scale.
Pittsfield had become "a training ground" for supervisors, Ward 6 Councilor John Krol said, because of low pay rates compared to other communities.
"A good manager will save you money every single time," Lothrop said prior to the council vote.
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