By Peter Berman
NORWALK, Conn. – Some months ago the Common Council ignited some modest controversy by granting the next mayor a 20 percent salary boost. Mayor Moccia immediately announced he would forgo the raise if re-elected. But the issue shouldn’t be cavalierly dismissed. Here’s a proposal.
As the city’s chief elected official the mayor should be paid more than any other official with one exception – the school superintendent who by virtue of supervising 1,000 employees with required state certification lies in a unique category. Common practice across America requires elevating the chief elected official to top salary status whether its for mayors, governors with special exceptions as cited above.
A second purpose for raising the mayor’s salary above all other administrators (city and school) excepting the superintendent is to cap salaries and reign in seemingly unrestrained wage and salary increases across the municipal employee spectrum. The surge in benefit costs alone argue for vigorous restraint in controlling city employee costs now just about averaging $100,000 with hundreds of employees well above that figure.
The recent Arbitration Award Panel’s finding that Norwalk’s school teachers are the fifth highest paid in the state — way out of line with a 17th highest income ranking — alone suggests the need for wage restraint across the board.
There’s every reason that City Hall workers are also among the highest paid in the state.
A continuing stagnant grand list and lackluster property values amidst a nationwide housing price boom reminds us of the negative continuing impact upon our city of a state government in continuing financial difficulties and state economy ranking last in national jobs growth. Even though it’s campaign season there are no magic bullets to swiftly shifting the tax burden to incoming business.
Raising the mayor’s salary above all other city administrators (save the superintendent) does triple duty by removing a contentious campaign issue, recognizing the proper role of the mayor as our chief elected official and bringing attention to the pressing need of capping our burgeoning employee wage/salary and benefits.
And its entirely appropriate for the new salary to begin next January.
Peter I. Berman
(Editor’s note: Mayor Richard Moccia has not said he would not take the raise, which takes affect Jan. 1, 2014. Saturday, he repeated that whoever wins the November election will have the option of accepting the raise.)