AMESBURY — Following several hours of occasionally contentious discussion, the Finance Committee voted to recommend granting salary increases to both the City Council and the mayor during last night’s meeting.
Originally the City Council was supposed to convene immediately following the Finance Committee meeting to take a final vote, but due to the late hour and the absence of Councilor Christian Scorzoni, city councilors decided to table the vote until next Wednesday, June 26, at 5 p.m.
The proposal initially put forth by Council President Anne Ferguson called for city councilors’ salaries to increase from $3,000 to $7,500, with the council president’s salary rising from $4,500 to $9,500. Councilor Bob Gilday proposed that the raises be reduced to $5,200 and $6,500 respectively, tantamount to $100 a week.
Similarly, the proposal to grant the mayor a raise from $80,000 to $97,000 was also reduced to $90,000. Both proposals were endorsed by a vote of 5-3, with councilors Derek Kimball, Bob Lavoie, Allen Neale, Ferguson and Gilday voting in favor, while councilors Donna McClure, Jim Kelcourse and Joseph McMilleon voted against.
The discussion surrounding the issue largely centered on whether councilors or the mayor deserved to get raises, with those on the council in support of the raises arguing that the job currently doesn’t pay at a level that meets the heavy demands of the job, while those against felt it was inappropriate for councilors or the mayor to be getting big raises when everyone else in town is trying to make do with less.
The majority of the 20 to 30 residents in attendance spoke against both raises, and McClure summed up their sentiment when she said the timing of the proposal was inappropriate, especially coming so soon after the budget hearing.
“It is absolutely inappropriate to tell the schools to hold your horses, and we’ve raised the government side by the smallest of increases,” she said. “But now we’re going to say to the taxpayers, ‘How about a raise?’ I’m actually shocked that we’re having this discussion two days after the budget hearing.”