By DANIEL KITTREDGE Should the mayor and members of the City Council receive significant pay increases at the start of the next term? A pair of ordinance amendments introduced as new business during Monday's meeting would boost the compensation for the
Should the mayor and members of the City Council receive significant pay increases at the start of the next term?
A pair of ordinance amendments introduced as new business during Monday’s meeting would boost the compensation for the nine-member council and the city’s chief executive after the 2020 election – although both proposals have already drawn a great deal of scrutiny.
The measure concerning mayoral pay, sponsored by Council Vice President Michael Favicchio of Ward 6 and Councilman Paul McAuley of Ward 2, would boost the salary for the city’s top official from $80,765 to $125,000 – more than 50 percent – as of Jan. 4, 2021. It would also provide for an annual cost-of-living adjustment of 2.5 percent for the mayor’s office.
The second proposal, sponsored by Council President Michael Farina and McAuley, would boost the council president’s salary to $10,000 from its current $5,000 as of Jan. 4, 2021. Compensation for council members would increase from $4,000 to $8,000.
Both proposals were referred to the Sept. 9 meeting of the council’s Finance Committee for consideration. Neither was discussed at length during Monday’s meeting.
Fung, for his part, has said he will veto the mayoral pay increase if it reaches his desk. During an appearance last week with Dan Paquet on Gene Valicenti’s WPRO radio program, he described the proposal as “insane.”
“I’ve been mayor for over 10½ years. Never had a raise, never sought a raise, and this ordinance is not being sponsored by me,” Fung said. “And you know, the reason I say the raise is outrageous, could you ever imagine giving someone in the private sector a 56 percent raise on day one, and then a COLA every single year at 2½ percent guaranteed?”
Fung did say he sees “room for a small adjustment,” given that the mayoral salary has not been increased in many years. In terms of the council increases, he also spoke in opposition to the proposed hike but said there is “slight room for modification.”
“I believe that people should seek election to any office based upon a belief in public service, not just because of salary,” he added.
Fung, who has served as mayor since 2009, is prevented from seeking reelection due to term limits.
On Facebook, Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan also spoke in opposition to the pay increases.
“I’d rather see us put $82k/yr towards our schools, our rental assistance program which supports families stay in their home after a sudden loss of income, or ensuring that all city workers are paid a living wage,” he said. “I will be voting no.”
Steve Frias, a historian and author of “Cranston and its Mayors,” wrote in an email to the Herald that serving as Cranston’s mayor was considered a part-time position until 1962, when approval of a home rule charter expanded the responsibilities of the office. Starting in 1963, the mayor’s salary was set at $12,500, which according to Frias is the equivalent of roughly $105,000 today.
The mayor’s salary was then “dramatically increased” in 1970 and periodically rose until it reached its present figure – $80,765 – in 2002, Frias wrote.
“At that point, Cranston devolved into a fiscal crisis which lead to it receiving a junk bond rating,” his email reads. “Since 2002, the salary of the mayor of Cranston has not been increased.”
In terms of compensation for City Council members, Frias wrote that the last time an increase was approved was in December 1982. The council at that time voted to increase its members’ pay from $3,000 to $4,000, effective January 1983.
The move, however, spurred controversy and legal wrangling.
“The Conflict of Interest Commission, the predecessor to the Ethics Commission, warned that the pay raise violated the Ethics Code,” Frias wrote. “A Superior Court judge later agreed and ruled that the City Council members who had been reelected in November 1982, and then voted to raise their pay could not receive this pay raise for 1983 or 1984. After this, the Cranston City Council never raised its pay again.”