Many in attendance also objected to the fact that councilors were proposing a 150 percent raise, arguing that people in the private sector would never see such a raise.
McMilleon, who was against the proposal, tried to temper this sentiment by pointing out that the council wasn’t voting on raises for themselves, but for whoever holds the office in the future. He added that the money the councilors make compared to other department heads, whose salaries are often criticized as being way too high, isn’t even in the same ballpark.
“To put this raise in the same category as the other contracts we have in this community is absurd; there is no comparison,” McMilleon said. “I’m not going to vote for this because of the perception issue, because I don’t think it sends the right message at this time.”
Prior to the meeting, Ferguson provided the other councilors with data sheets detailing the salaries of all the mayors and city councilors in Massachusetts, and her point was that Amesbury’s mayor and councilors are among the lowest paid in the state, in some cases by a fairly wide margin.
According to Ferguson, Kezer’s current $80,000 annual salary is tied with two others at No. 34 out of 46 mayors in Massachusetts, and is below the statewide average of $97,168 per year. That average does not include the mayors of Worcester ($34,000), Lowell ($20,000) and Cambridge ($105,000), who are each elected from the City Council as part of their city’s “Plan E” form of municipal government.
Within Essex County, Kezer is also on the low end of the totem poll, as he and Methuen Mayor Stephen Zanni each have the second lowest mayoral salary in the county, ahead of only Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
Kirk, however, is set to see her salary rise from $75,000 to $100,000 next year if she wins re-election, as will Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday ($85,000 to $97,000) and Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt ($95,000 to $105,000). These increases will boost the average Essex County mayoral salary from $89,393 to $94,193.