HAVERHILL — City councilors' wallets are getting a bit fatter.
As part of the new city budget, the council voted to increase its monthly expense account from $207 per councilor to $407. That's a hike of $2,400 per year for each councilor.
The increase was approved by a 6-3 vote. It went into effect July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
In addition to the expense account, councilors receive an annual salary of $8,000. The council president receives an additional $1,500 per year. Councilors are eligible to enroll in the city's health insurance plan and retirement program.
Last year's total council expense budget was $22,392. It was increased to $43,992 for this year, according to Council President John Michitson.
At the council's June 24 meeting, Councilor William Ryan said that adding $21,600 to the council's total annual expense budget was "not an easy thing to do." In support of the increase, he said councilors give back to the community and "do a pretty darn good job."
Ryan said the council had not received a substantial pay raise in three decades.
"After 30 years, I think it was appropriate," he said of giving councilors more money.
In late 2006, councilors discussed a proposal to increase their pay from $8,000 a year to $15,000 a year, but that hike did not happen.
Voting in favor of this year's expense account increase were Ryan, Robert Scatamacchia, Thomas Sullivan, Michael McGonagle, Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien and William Macek. Voting against were Melinda Barrett, Colin LePage and Michitson.
Michitson told The Eagle-Tribune that an increase wasn't a priority for him, but he did note that councilors in other local communities are more highly compensated than those in Haverhill.
He said councilors in Lawrence are paid $15,057 a year plus expenses, councilors in Lowell receive $15,000 plus expenses, and councilors in Lynn get $15,302 plus expenses. Councilors in Malden, a city similar in population size to Haverhill, receive $17,500 plus expenses, he said.