METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni last night defended his request for a $20,000 raise starting July 1 as councilors reviewing the budget questioned why a raise would not wait until the next term.
At the same time, another councilor criticized what he said was a flawed system of nonunion pay increases, questioning why some employees got significant raises while others did not.
Councilor Ron Marsan said he thought the mayor’s position could use a raise, but that should happen no sooner than after the next election in 2015. “I’d like to see it start in the next elected term,” he said. “You could attract better people.”
Zanni said the $80,000 a year salary has not been increased in nine years and as chief executive of the city, his pay should be closer to the department heads he oversees.
“Teachers, police fire, many of them make more than I do,” he said.
He pointed to other cities, such as Lynn and Quincy, that approved raises for their mayors.
“For a $150 million budget, it’s not a lot,” he said.
Councilor Sean Fountain said he agreed with the raise, which would put the mayor’s salary at $100,000.
“The CEO of the city should be making as much or more than the department heads,” Fountain said. “Most of the department heads make more than the mayor.”
Councilors by charter can cut any amount from any line item in the budget before approving it. They scheduled a budget meeting June 17 at 8 p.m. A public hearing on it will start at 7:30.
At the same time, Councilor James Jajuga questioned why several employees got raises while others did not. He pointed to employees in the city clerk’s office and elder services who did not receive raises while employees in the assessor’s office and community development, among others, did.
Zanni, auditor Tom Kelly and department heads said many employees whose pay would increase next year either get the bump from the existing pay scale step system or were given new job titles to cover more responsibilities.
“The system is wrong and should be adjusted so people get a fairer raise,” Jajuga said.
Zanni said he agreed and wants to review the entire step system, which is an ordinance that was approved by a past City Council.
The council last night reviewed the budgets for more than a dozen departments. It will meet again Monday at 7:30 p.m. in a workshop to review budget requests for the School, Police, Fire and Emergency Management departments.
Zanni proposed a $78 million budget for city operations.