Gloucester's City Council last night approved a new $83.4 million budget for the 2013 fiscal year that begins July 1, signing off on a spending plan that carries a 3 percent increase over the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
Councilors voted through each part of the fiscal 2013 budget set out by the Budget and Finance Subcommittee with little disagreement — except in the salary line in Mayor Carolyn Kirk's office.
Three city councilors took issue with a 13 percent raise for Chief Administrative Office Jim Duggan, and councilor Bruce Tobey moved to reduce the salary line item to a level that would have set that raise at just over 8 percent. Tobey's amendment failed, and the salary line stood.
"Now is not the time to give out double digit raises," said Councilor Greg Verga, especially when, in past years, the city has put pressure on rank-and-file employees.
"We continue to go after the lesser paid people and nickle and dime them," Verga said. "But we seem to be on the path of giving rewards to management for fear of losing them to other areas. At some point we have to say 'leave.'"
Verga, Councilor Bob Whynott and Tobey voted for Tobey's amendment. but Councilors Joe Ciolino, Jackie Hardy, Melissa Cox, Steve LeBlanc, Sefatia Romeo-Theken and Paul McGeary all voted against it, keeping the salary increases in place.
When the Council approved the raising the pay scales of the city's upper management, said McGeary, Budget and Finance Subcommittee Chairman, councilors did so to put management pay on par with surrounding communities. At the end of the day, he added, that's what was approved.
Management, he said, hadn't received a substantive raise in the past ten years. The salary lines approved last night, McGeary added, place them on level with city employees who have received smaller raises over the same time period.
"A 10, 15, 20 percent raise isn't out of whack if it's a catch-up raise," McGeary said.
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