The Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee unanimously approved a $12,397 raise for Mayor John DeStefano Jr. Tuesday night and agreed to increase the maximum amounts the city can pay top government employees, many of whom do not have the opportunity to make as much as their counterparts in other cities.
While it has yet to be approved by the full board, DeStefano’s new proposed salary of $110,000 would be a 12.7 percent increase over his current salary of $97,603. Under the current city charter, the Board of Aldermen is required to set the mayor’s salary at the start of each new two-year term.
The mayor’s pay has gone up substantially since 1996, when he made approximately $70,000.
The proposed salary increases for city employees, which must also pass the full board, would raise by 15 percent the maximum amount the city can pay civil servants like the chief administrative officer and the chief of police. City employees are paid according to a grade system, whereby the mayor may raise or lower an employee’s pay within a certain range based on his performance and length of tenure.
According to a standard biennial report submitted to the committee by Director of Human Resources Tina Burgett, New Haven may underpay its top public servants by as much as 20 percent, relative to the salaries of comparable employees in other Connecticut cities.
The report, drafted by Personnel Management Associates, Inc., shows that the maximum amounts cities like Hartford, Bridgeport and Providence, R.I., can pay different types of city employees is 8.3 to 20.5 percent higher than the maximum amount New Haven can give the equivalent people.
Burgett said the city must raise salaries if it wishes to retain the best possible employees.
“The goal for the city is always to remain a competitive employer,” Burgett said. “I think everybody in the public sector has to face that their salaries aren’t going to be as competitive as the private sector, but we still do try to remain competitive. We set our pay ranges in 1999. At the time, they were deemed to be competitive.”
Burgett said the legislation will not set specific salaries for current administrators but will raise the pay range for each position.
“We’re just trying to make sure there are no situations where a bona fide outstanding employee couldn’t get the raise he or she deserved,” she explained.
With some reservations, the committee also approved by a 4-2 vote a charter-mandated pay raise for the elected position of city clerk.
Ward 25 Alderwoman Nancy Ahern, one of the 30-member board’s two Republicans, said she did not support the raise because most of the work in the clerk’s office is actually performed by the assistant city clerk, a full-time employee appointed by the mayor.
The city clerk-elect, outgoing Ward 20 Alderman Ron Smith, is a member of the committee and abstained from voting on the matter.
If approved, Smith’s salary would be $41,375 when he takes office in January.
The cumbersome biennial process of approving pay raises for city employees, the mayor and the city clerk has prompted some city politicians to call for permanent changes in the process.
Some have proposed incorporating pay increases into the city charter, which is due for a mandatory 10-year revision next year.
Burgett said she had not heard anything about charter revision.
“I would like not to have to go back and do this every three years,” Burgett said, but she quickly added she had reservations about the idea. “I would always be really concerned if you set something in stone. And you certainly wouldn’t want to limit salaries to a cost of living index.”