Thoughts differ on proposed pay increases for city councilors, School Committee members

  • A proposal to double the City Council and School Committee stipends was tabled by the City Council on Wednesday. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/21/2019 11:05:45 PM
Modified: 11/21/2019 11:05:33 PM

GREENFIELD — A proposal to double the City Council and School Committee stipends was tabled by the City Council on Wednesday.

The ordinance, put forward by Precinct 5 City Councilor Timothy Dolan, proposed to increase the stipend from “$2,000 to $4,000 annually, and the president of the council and the chair of the School Committee shall receive for their duties an additional stipend of $500.”

After discussion, the ordinance was tabled, with five councilors opposed to tabling and one abstention.

Dolan explained he researched stipend amounts, including by polling city clerks in municipalities of similar sizes, and proposed the pay increases in hopes of increasing diversity and democracy.

“The idea is that if we can compensate people a little more effectively, that would broaden the pool of people who are able to serve in the roles,” he said. “Making these positions more appealing to people, this is one way we can do that.”

Given the recent election of new members, City Council Vice President Penny Ricketts encouraged tabling the proposed ordinance.

“There is no way I could vote to increase the stipend at this time, when there is so much that this community needs right now,” she said. “It’s not the time to take more money. I would want it to be tabled until the new councilors would be on the committee.”

At-Large City Councilor Isaac Mass, who did not seek re-election this year, expressed that he feels it was his responsibility to give back to the community that gave so much to him, and that money is a non-issue.

“It’s been my privilege to spend six terms on the Greenfield City Council. It’s been an honor,” Mass said. “I’ve always felt valued by my constituents, my peers, counterparts on the executive side, even when we disagree. ... No amount of money could make me return for another term. It could have been $50,000. ... The money is not a factor.”

Precinct 1 City Council Verne Sund expressed a similar sentiment.

“I have one of the lowest monthly incomes here,” Sund said. “When I found out we were getting $2,000, I wanted to give it back to the town because I like working with the town. Not for money, but to see the town go forward.”

An amendment to have the ordinance take effect in 2024, following a review of the city charter, was proposed by Precinct 7 City Councilor Otis Wheeler.

“I would be inclined to support it if it were proposed by the charter review committee to reduce the size of the council, because that would be an easier hit to the city’s budget,” he explained.

Like Wheeler, Precinct 6 City Council Sheila Gilmour said that while she wants to support the ordinance, she is concerned about the city’s expenses.

“Our paraprofessionals don’t have their contract funded right now and residents are concerned about their tax bills,” Gilmour said. “I want to have this conversation because I think it’s important, but right now I can’t make myself vote for it.”

“I value the hard-earned money in the pockets of the residents who would have to fund it,” noted Precinct 3 City Councilor Brickett Allis.

There was also a proposed ordinance from Precinct 2 City Councilor Mark Berson to increase the mayor’s salary from $70,000 to a minimum of $105,000, effective immediately, and to increase each city councilor’s annual stipend to $15,000, effective on Jan. 15, 2021. However, the City Council unanimously voted this ordinance down.

Berson spoke in support of Dolan’s ordinance as well.

“It’s not a shame to take money to do a job (that) provides value to the community and connects you to your fellow residents,” Berson said. “I support this because I want the word to get out that we value the people here.

“And everybody doesn’t have to be such a martyr about it, that ‘I worked my entire life for nothing for the town of Greenfield, therefore we got a fire station,’” he continued. “The math doesn’t compute. This amount of money isn’t going to make that kind of an impact, but what a statement it makes to the rest of the community, and what kind of city we are is very important.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.


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