How Springfield City Council Pay Compares To Other New England Cities

Dec 13, 2018

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts, will continue discussion next week on whether to approve a pay raise of more than 50 percent for its members. 

That isn't sitting well with the mayor, but the proposed salary is somewhat in line with a few other cities in New England.

The last raise approved for the Springfield City Council was five years ago, which brought their pay to $19,500.

Earlier this month, the council took a first vote on the latest proposal to boost it another $10,000.

"We want to make sure that we can retain those who are doing a great job, and we want to make sure we can attract those that can do a better job," said Orlando Ramos, Springfield's City Council president. "Salary is a part of that."

Ramos said an advisory committee he established looked into the matter. That panel, in its report, called for a raise of about half as much as what the council voted on.

Legislative bodies' earnings in New England's largest cities vary greatly -- from $99,500 for city councilors in Boston to not a single penny in Stamford, Connecticut.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno declined requests for an interview. But in a statement, he called the potential raises "exorbitant" and "not justified."

Sarno also said he won't take a $25,000 hike to his salary that is part of the package.

Responding to the criticism, Ramos was quick to point to salary increases the city passed in 2013.

"The mayor accepted a 43 percent increase for his position. There was no objection from the mayor," Ramos said.

If the council's 51 percent raise does go through, it would bring their pay in line with places like Worcester and Lowell.

Across the ten largest cities in New England, what elected representatives make varies greatly — from $99,500 for city councilors in Boston to not a single penny in Stamford, Connecticut.

"If I wasn't doing this, I'd probably be volunteering in some other kind of charity or nonprofit organization," said Matthew Quinones, the president of Stamford's Board of Representatives.

Quinones said the volunteer nature of the job should give prospective candidates something to think about.

They should consider "their time management and their own financial positions, as to whether or not this is a responsibility they can take on," Quinones said.

Down the road in Bridgeport, Connecticut, city councilors there draw a $9,000 stipend — but it can only be used for expenses related to the job.

Bridgeport Council President Aidee Nieves said some of her colleagues prefer it that way.

"Once you get paid, it brings your public service life to a different level," Nieves said. "Some of them feel if it's volunteer, they still have that level of control."

Nieves said the idea of paying councilors a salary does occasionally come up, but it might be a little while before it's debated again.

"This year being an election year, I don't think we'll be increasing our stipend, or talking about a salary," Nieves said.

That hasn't stopped city councilors in Springfield, who will also face voters this coming year.