By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — Mayor Ted Bettencourt said yesterday that he will accept a 10 percent pay increase that boosts his salary from nearly $95,000 to $105,000.
The City Council voted to raise his pay, their own and the salary of school board members on Thursday. Only two councilors, Anne Manning-Martin and Rico Mello, of the 10 present voted against the measure. (Councilor Bob Driscoll was absent.)
The mayor’s new salary will likely take effect next month, while the councilors’ increase would start in January 2014.
“When I was on the council, I typically voted for increases in the mayor’s salary,” Bettencourt said. “I felt that in the city of Peabody, the salary of the mayor should be in line with the salaries in surrounding areas.”
Mayor Bill Scanlon of Beverly, for example, earns $100,000 a year. In Salem, Mayor Kim Driscoll takes home slightly more at $100,384. Other city employees, in Peabody and elsewhere, typically earn far more than mayors. Peabody’s school superintendent earns $165,000. Several police officers and firefighters, thanks to frequent overtime work, take home more money per year than the mayor.
Responding to Manning-Martin’s observation that the financial struggles of Peabody residents caused her to vote against the raise, Bettencourt noted, “It’s always a sensitive topic to recommend a raise.” But he pointed to the millions in savings he’s generated for the city, particularly by persuading unions to sign onto the state health care program.
“We’ve been very cost-conscious,” Bettencourt said.
He said he would have rejected the kind of large increases in mayoral pay recently seen in communities like Braintree (19 percent, raising pay to $125,000) and Melrose (25 percent, also raising to $125,000).
Additionally, he mentioned, that he oversees a $140 million budget.
“This is a position of great importance,” he said, “dealing with a significant amount of money. ... I’ve heard it compared to CEOs in private business.”
In contrast to former Mayor Michael Bonfanti, a retired federal bank examiner who rejected pay increases throughout his 10-year tenure, Bettencourt has a young family.
“I’ve been in the private sector for the last 14 years,” he said. “There were good years and years that weren’t as good. ... We take it from month to month.”
His wife works full time, he said.
Asked about a proposal from Mello that raises be tied to the rise and fall of property taxes — when taxes go up pay would go down, when taxes go down pay would go up — the mayor declined to comment.
City Council raises will also be going up, from $7,466 to $9,450 — a 26 percent pay hike. And from now on, anytime the mayor gets a raise, city councilors will automatically get one, too, as they voted to make their own salaries 9 percent of the mayor’s.
Councilor Dave Gravel joined Manning-Martin and Mello in voting to reject that motion.
Neither the mayor nor the council had received an increase since 2001, with the council reluctant to take increases while then-Mayor Bonfanti declined to take his.
The School Committee hasn’t had an increase in pay since 1998. The City Council voted to give them a 27 percent pay hike, raising their stipends from $4,000 to $5,100.
Local mayor/town manager salaries
Local mayor/town manager salaries Salem: $100,384 Beverly: $100,000 Danvers: $187,700 Peabody: $105,000