, Newburyport, MA

June 26, 2013

Our view: Councilors should reject pay raise

Newburyport Daily News

---- — Amesbury’s City Council is poised to grant itself, and the mayor, hefty pay raises tonight.

Based on the council’s prior votes, the handsome raises appear to be inevitable. But one never knows in politics. Tonight’s meeting is a last chance for the council to show some common sense. It should smell the political winds in Amesbury and reject this ridiculous idea.

Last week the council met as the “finance committee” and voted 5-3 to support a plan to increase council members’ annual pay by 73 percent, to $5,200 per year. It also recommended that the mayor get a 12.5 percent raise, bringing the mayor’s income to $90,000. If approved, these raises would take effect next year.

The original plan had even larger pay hikes — twice as large — but that was watered down due to public outcry. Time to douse even more water on this flawed idea.

We applaud the three councilors who voted against the pay raises — James Kelcourse, Joseph McMilleon and Donna McClure. The other six members of the council should follow their lead when they make a final decision on this measure tonight.

It is mindblowing that any elected leaders would consider such a move just days after making spending decisions that will result in the laying off of several school employees, and substantial increases in the fees that parents must pay to have their kids play sports and ride the bus. The council’s sense that it is woefully underpaid is laughable in the face of these layoffs, and in the face of the dozens of other elected and appointed Amesbury committee and board members who receive no pay whatsoever for their service to the city.

What is Amesbury’s spending priority? Is it getting rid of teachers, jacking up fees charged to parents and fattening the wallets of the top elected officials?

The council will answer that question tonight. Let’s hope it gets it right.