The Melrose Appropriations Committee is expected to discuss Mayor Rob Dolan's proposed pay raise on Monday night.
The Appropriations Committee is slated to meet on Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chamber at City Hall. The board set the committee's meeting date during their Tuesday night session.
Eight Aldermen will need to vote in favor of the mayor's proposal for it to be approved.
In a Dec. 26 letter to the board, Dolan requested a pay increase from $99,896 to $125,000. In a Jan. 15 letter to Aldermen, the mayor wrote, "I respectfully request that this Honorable Board amend Melrose Revised Ordinances, Chapter 48-1. Mayor. Part A. Salary, to read as follows: Effective January 1, 2014, the salary for the position of Mayor shall be $125,000 per annum.'"
Where Does Melrose's Mayoral Pay Rank?
Based on a compensation study completed by Marianne Long and Polly Latta of the city's Human Resources Department, the study revealed:
- Of the 31 mayors or town managers inside the Route 128 corridor, Melrose ranked 29th in compensation, with Lynn ($83,225) 30th and Woburn ($73,000) 31th.
- Of the 15 communities with mayors, Melrose ranked 14th in compensation, ahead of Woburn.
- Of the 11 mayors in the Middlesex League, Melrose ranked 10th in compensation, ahead of Woburn.
Mayor Outlines Reasons For Proposed Pay Increase
In his letter to the board, Dolan said, "As Mayor, I am responsible for 1,000 employees citywide. I have annual discussions individually with non-union employees, department heads, and unions regarding the issue of compensation in relation to other communities and job responsibilities. I have been in office for over 11 years. I believe I have been fair, and I have taken dramatic action over those years to improve employees' compensation and to attract the best available talent. The compensation for the position of Mayor is your responsibility.
"However, as we know, since Mayor (James) Milano's administration, the compensation for the chief executive officer for the City of Melrose has been historically out of line with surrounding communities. It's time to change that in a pragmatic, responsible way."
Dolan, referring to the compensation study, later discusses where Melrose's mayoral compensation is and where he believes it should be moving forward.
"...The difference between the current mayor's salary and the average is $42,739. Regardless of who holds this job, that is out of line. Most recently, the Town of Wakefield voted to increase their chief executive pay from $117,000 to $140,000. Reading moved from $125,000 to $140,000 six months ago. My proposal of $125,000 is $26,646 off the average; it is $15,000 less than our regional partners, Wakefield and Reading; and it is the same as the Town Manager of Stoneham. The Mayor of Melrose in my opinion, regardless of who holds the job, should be paid at minimum the same amount as Stoneham."
Dolan noted how nearly a dozen department heads who report to him earn a greater salary than he does.
"Regardless of who holds this job, it makes no operational sense that the Chief Executive Officer makes dramatically less in base pay than 11 individuals under his or her direct authority," Dolan said. "My proposed salary of $125,000 is the same as the Principal of Melrose High School. The Mayor of the City of Melrose, responsible for the future of this community, should be paid, at minimum, the same as the principal of Melrose High School."
The mayor compared the city's current economic standing to the federal government's, saying the city is in a far better position than Washington thanks in part to his efforts.
"Although Washington is in shambles, the City of Melrose is not. Our unemployment rate is not only half the national rate, it is over 2 percentage points lower than the state unemployment rate. If you talk to any real estate agent, there are price wars over our housing. New businesses are lining up to occupy open shops, our private investment is historic, and Melrose is one of the hottest communities in which to live and do business in Massachusetts," Dolan said. "The chief executive officer is the city's face to the business community, and he or she is the chief executive and salesperson of the City of Melrose. ... The Mayor's job is a dramatically different job than it was when I took office ... The expectations and compensation for the position must not only be in line with other cities and towns but the position must be respected as the face of the city and the individual serving, and their family, must stand up to that constant 24 hour challenge."
Letters of Support
In his letter to the board, Dolan said, "It is important that you communicate with me, one way or another, with regard to your position on this issue. I believe what happened in 2010, when this was brought up before, was unfair to me and my family. Several private citizens have stepped forward to advocate for this change, including John McLaughlin, local business leader and Chairman of our Building Committee; Joe Nevin, architect; and Dr. Suzy Groden, former educator and Chair of the Human Rights Commission."
In a letter of support, McLaughlin discussed how he believes the position of mayor "has many more responsibilities" than that of a town manager and that there needs to be equity and fairness in pay for the mayor of Melrose.
"There is a stark difference between the way Melrose compensates its Mayor and how surrounding communities compensate their Chief Executives. Mayor Dolan initially asked the Board of Aldermen to address this issue in 2010. The Board of Aldermen did not take a comprehensive approach to addressing the issue of compensation in a vote that lost 7-4. Eight votes are needed to pass a change in compensation. The increase for 2013 is 1 (percent); the scheduled increases for 2014 and beyond are (zero percent)," wrote McLaughlin. "The current request is to adjust the salary to $125,000 to bring it closer to the compensation other communities are providing for this position. I was surprised at the dramatic difference in compensation when I first looked at it, and I wasn't really paying attention in 2010 when the Board failed to address the issue. Honestly, I was a little embarrassed when I saw the difference as I consider Melrose among the most well run and progressive communities in the area."
Melrose Chamber of Commerce Backs Dolan
In a letter to the board, Melrose Chamber of Commerce President Joan Cassidy and Executive Director Joan Ford Mongeau expressed their support for Dolan's requested pay raise.
"We, the Board of Directors of the Melrose Chamber of Commerce, write in support of the ordinance put forward to the Board of Aldermen to increase the salary of the position of the Mayor of Melrose. Upon review of the salaries of neighboring cities and towns, we recognize that the Mayor of Melrose is seriously underpaid in comparison to his peers," reads the letter. "The position of Mayor is one that is important to residents and to business owners alike, and the salary needs to be commensurate with those of neighboring communities.
"A member of the Melrose Chamber of Commerce himself, Mayor Robert Dolan is an active participant and a very visible supporter of the Melrose business community. He frequently attends Chamber events; introduces new businesses to the Chamber; plays a major role in Chamber sponsored community events like the Victorian Fair, Trick or Treat at Melrose businesses and Home for the Holidays; and regularly seeks the opinion of the Chamber on city issues. Rob Dolan is readily available to meet both current and prospective business owners."
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We'd like to know: Do you think Mayor Rob Dolan deserves a pay increase? Let us know by posting a comment in the comments section below.