Backed Into Corner by State Law, Council Raises Mayor's Pay to $30,000
Learning at the 11th hour that it was now or never, aldermen increased mayoral salary by 33 percent.
The next mayor of Wauwtosa will receive $30,000 a year in salary, up 33 percent from the $22,500 mayors have made annually since 1984, the Wauwatosa Common Council decided Tuesday night.
The vote was 12-4, which might sound overwhelming in its support. But in fact, it was as close as it possibly could have been, thanks to a bombshell dropped by City Attorney Alan Kesner.
Kesner had been out of town all of last week and Monday, returning to find that a resolution to raise the mayor's pay had been forwarded to the council and that there was some sentiment to hold over a vote on the matter until after Jan. 3, the closing date for nominations to be filed for the April election.
Not so fast, Kesner said. There had been plenty of discussion of the state statute that prohibits raising an elected official's salary while in office. But there is another statute, he said, that prohibits raising an elective position's salary after the nomination filing deadline.
"The state statute says that the salary has to be established before the end of the filing period," he said.
What's more, he told the council, raising the mayor's pay would require a three-quarters majority vote.
Somehow, no one knew this, even though the matter of the mayor's pay had been debated for two years and had been twice raised and defeated just since July.
Alderman and now mayoral candidate Peter Donegan had pushed for the pay raise over the summer and brought it back to life even after its defeat in July. In light of entering the race just a day before Tuesday's meeting, he said, "I am in the uneviable position of moving this while I am running for mayor. I know I'll have egg on my face."
There was egg enough to go around, however, after Kesner spelled out the statutes. It was just about now or never for the council to finally make up its collective mind on whether to raise the mayor's pay. If the council didn't act, the mayor's salary couldn't be raised until 2016 at the earliest.
After an hour's debate in which almost every council member had a say, often at some length, the vote came to exactly the three-quarters needed to pass.