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Melrose Appropriations Committee to Review Mayor's Proposed Pay Raise

The Melrose Appropriations Committee is expected to discuss Mayor Rob Dolan's proposed pay raise on Jan. 28.

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."

Previous Coverage

  • Mayor's Salary Hikes For Next Five Years Submitted to Aldermen
  • Mayor's Salary Going Up—But Not as Much as Requested
  • Tramontozzi Explains Vote On Mayor's Salary

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.

Myron Dittmer January 25, 2013 at 03:09 AM
Anyone who attended this evening's State of the City address by Mayor Robert Dolan at Memorial Hall would have not difficulty in voting for his salary increase based on the extraordinary progress our city has made in so many different areas of quality of life since he was elected Mayor over 11 years ago. He continues to invest much personal time and energy into making Melrose one of the best run cities of the Commonwealth and one that all of us continue to be proud to call our city.
luckyfreeman January 25, 2013 at 03:35 AM
nice taxpayer funded pay hike HUH...everybody else is struggling to make end meet ...trying to work with a reduced budget and had to take pay cuts and hour cuts and this clown just goes and ups his check like all the others on the taxpayers wallett...
Rick Costa January 25, 2013 at 11:52 AM
I guess Robbie's golden parachute with Tiny Tim Murray won't be panning out any time soon, so he wants the cash that some of his patrolmen are making. Test scores are down and gunshots ringing out on West Wyoming; I must be living in an alternate Melrose from the one MFD lives in.
becca long January 25, 2013 at 02:29 PM
I was just wondering why it took me to read THREE + paragraphs before I found out just how much of a raise the Mayor is asking for? The headline of this article is not exactly an eye catcher - what is up with that? Most people won't even bother to read this story - they will simply say "oh mayor wants/needs a raise, so what?" - but TWENTY SIX PERCENT - might get people talking thinking and talking - need to redo the topic title of this article.
Dave Gray January 25, 2013 at 02:47 PM
Have to wonder about MFD's comments - proud of the school system, which is a dysfunctional disgrace. Nobody's saying he shouldn't get a raise, but even asking for a 26% raise given that everyone else just absorbed another 3% tax increase (so far) is way over the line. 1.5% and 1.5% is more like it. Here's a thought - institute a $125000.00 salary that takes effect the first day of the next Mayor's term.
Jon Fri January 25, 2013 at 03:06 PM
These government CEOs are greedy! I'm tired of the greed, CEOs like this guy are the problem!
Ryan January 25, 2013 at 04:53 PM
The 26% raise is based on local benchmarks. If approved, the Mayor's salary would still be below the local average & below closest towns (Wakefield & Reading). I dont think we can cap the raise to 1%-3% if the starting point is way off base. Market corrections are needed every now and then....Once the salary is back in line w/ the market, I think it makes sense to put in small increases & base them on well thought out incentive goals & economic factors. I'd love to see similar studies for the 11 direct reports that currently make more than the Mayor. Are we paying them too much? (I think there was a similar study for Principals recently, but not sure what the other roles are)
Dave Gray January 25, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Two points: 1. Those figures include those of Town Managers, which is not the same job description as Mayor. For example, the Wakefield Town Manager also functions as the Auditor. Wakefield has no Auditor, it has a Town Accountant. 2. Melrose historically has been one of the lowest paying towns across the board - teachers, police, fire, DPW - you name it. I believe over the last four years the Mayor has had a higher pay raise by percent than any other employee other than new executive hires. To propose a massive increase for himself on the one hand, and then tell the employees they get 1% because it's all the town can afford is arrogance and hypocrisy of the highest order. And you know, Melrose shouldn't even be a City with a Mayor. It should be a town with a board of selectmen, town meeting, and a town manager. How many other cities in Mass have a population under 30000?
Jim S. January 25, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Dave Gray is absolutely correct. I would like to add two additional points: 1. When the teachers' contract was under discussion last spring, Dolan claimed that it was impossible for the Melrose pay scale to compete with larger or wealthier communities. A direct quote from Dolan, as printed in The Patch dated May 10, 2012: "Melrose is a small community. If you have read the book Moneyball, we are not the New York Yankees or the Red Sox in our ability to raise money like larger (Cambridge, Boston) or wealthier (Lynnfield, Winchester, Belmont) communities." He then went on to say that the teachers' 5-7% step raises (which is "fuzzy math" according to some of the teachers) is "very high" and that the teachers' compensation package is "very generous, competitive". If that is the case, then how can he possibly justify a 26% raise for himself? His own statements point out that this raise is not supportable. 2. Dolan is in the middle of a four-year term. The salary for that term was increased by the Board of Aldermen in late 2010, effective for 2012, and 2013. The Board specifically declined to raise the salary for 2014 and 2015. In 2010, Dolan had requested a raise of approximately 7% for 2014 and 2% for 2015. So, when he ran for this current term as mayor, he did so knowing that his salary would be capped after 2012. Why should the Board renegotiate his salary mid-term when he is in effect under agreement to provide services for 2 more years at current rate?
Dave Gray January 25, 2013 at 08:26 PM
You know, I actually had forgotten about that first point you made, but after you posted it, it came back to me, and you are right. He did say exactly that. I guess he figured either 1. no one would remember, or 2. everybody is too dumb to catch the hypocrisy. Apparently what's good for the gander is not so good for the goose. Second point - did they decline to address 2014 and 2015 and say they would re-visit when the time came or did they actually say no increase through then?
Jim S. January 25, 2013 at 08:35 PM
I do not know what may have been said in 2010 about 2014 and 2015. And we all know that the officials in this city have a history of back room deals and open meeting law violations, so there very well could have been a back room promise made. Alderman Tramontozzi's reasons for voting against the 2010 raises were set forth in a letter published in the Patch. There is a link to his 2010 letter in this article above. Basically, he said the city could not afford the raise due to economic times, not because of Dolan's performance. The economy is still in the tank, however, and if we could not afford it in 2010, I don't see how Tranmontozzi or anyone else can say that we can afford it now, particularly where in 2010 Dolan was asking for 7% in 2014 plus 2% in 2015, whereas now Dolan is asking for 26%!!! And let's not forget that we are soon going to be borrowing upwards of $1million just for textbooks, per the superintendent's request earlier this week. User fees and water bills are going way up, as taxes do every year. So we are not nearly as flush as Dolan would now like to claim, in order to get his raise approved.
Percy January 25, 2013 at 11:17 PM
There are seven MA cities (out of 55 cities total) smaller than Melrose: Gardner Winthrop Greenfield Newburyport Southbridge Amesbury Easthampton
Nate January 25, 2013 at 11:49 PM
A $25,000.00 pay raise? Seems like a bit much are all Melrose city employees going to get a similar raise? If not why is the mayor getting one?
Richard Cappiello January 26, 2013 at 03:55 PM
www.freedomtomarry.org/pages/mayors-for-the-freedom-to-marry Mr. Mayor, Why haven't you signed the 'Mayors for the Freedom to Marry'? Melrose has a very large LGBT community as well as many business owners in downtown melrose are LGBT. Please sign 'Freedom to Marry' and show your support for the LGBT community in your city. My vote will depend on you supporting the LGBT community.
Jerry January 26, 2013 at 04:12 PM
What does a pay raise have to do with this agenda?
jal January 27, 2013 at 01:03 PM
hmmm, maybe he should have appropriated the surplus from 2010's budget to himself instead of offerring free kindergarten tuition for incoming students in 2011 a year after I paid for 4 children to attend.
S/O Costa January 28, 2013 at 01:30 AM
Im sorry But I cant get behind any one getting a pay raise I make 11.oo an Hr and I have NO Benfits NO Health insurance, My rent keeps going up, My cell bill my Gas and Ele. there are weeks I cant buy food. I dont Own a car. I have no cable or Internet where I live. I have Mice that forced me to get a cat that I can bearly afford. Im sorry HOW dare you ask for a pay raise Mr MAyor Your lucky to have a roof over your head. Maybe Id shock you and the folks in this town to even say who I am and who I work for. But I have Met you, before thou Im sure You wouldnt recall me. People tell me move get another job, its not an opition for me. Sorry NO RAISE For Me, You Shouldnt get one either.
RL Goudreau January 28, 2013 at 05:42 PM
So no one anywhere is entitiled to a pay raise anywhere because you make $11/hr with no benefits (and a whole slew of other excuses) by your logic? If so, I'm afraid to tell that the world does not work that way. I can't say I'm for or against the mayor getting a raise yet as I don't have enough information to support my decision. But it certainly won't include my life's circumstances as a determining factor. I don't know you or your story so I won't even pretend to understand where you're coming from but for someone to say that any attempt at better thier situation is "not an option for me" can't be all that seriously about making it better. Also, mouse traps tend to be a cheaper alternative that a cat (and sometimes more effective too).
Roy Bauer January 29, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Rob Dolan is one of the most supportive mayors of marriage equality. He welcomed same sex couples with open arms the first day registration was possible back in 2004. Rob has continually supported across the board equality. He is a warm, caring man who sees beyond 'labels' that compartmentalize individuals.

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