Depending on how you look at it, the next mayor of Wauwatosa was recommended Tuesday night for either a huge pay raise – 33 percent – or perhaps for a miniscule pay raise, based on inflation since the last hike.
The mayor's salary has been stuck at $22,500 for 27 years. Eighteen months ago, a resolution came out of the city's Employee Relations Committee calling for doubling the salary of the position of mayor to $45,000. That proposal was put on hold until nearer the next election.
If the mayoral salary had kept up with inflation since it was last set in 1984, it would now be between $52,000 and $53,000 a year.
On Tuesday, the committee took up the issue again and chopped at the $45,000 figure not once but twice, first coming to a 2-2 tie on recommending a bump for the next mayor to $35,000 a year, then acting 3-1 in favor of a second motion from the chair to raise it only to $30,000. Committee member Ald. Jill Organ was absent.
Committee Chairman Peter Donegan opened the matter by making one thing clear: "We are not talking about this mayor (Jill Didier), we are talking about the mayoral position. That would be the mayor who takes office after the 2012 election."
Ald. Brian Ewerdt, who a year and a half ago had proposed doubling the mayor's pay, said: "In 1984, ($22,500) might have been a living wage you could squeak by on, but I don't think it is in 2011. That's probably below the federal poverty line."
Ewerdt then amended himself and moved a salary increase to $35,000, but the best he could get was a tie vote, with Ald. Cheryl Berdan agreeing with him while Donegan and Ald. Michael Walsh could not go along with that large an increase.
"The mayor has had a busy year," Walsh said, "but that doesn't mean she should get a raise." Walsh has repeatedly said that he sees the mayor's position as a public service, not a professional position.
Donegan agreed, saying: "We get a lot more than we pay for (from the mayor), but I don't want this seen as a CEO position. The city administrator acts as the chief executive officer... those duties are delegated by our ordinance."
Donegan then himself moved for an increase to $30,000, calling the mayor's office "a very important role with the veto and the tiebreaker. But I would rather not have two CEOs.
"That said, our public expects the mayor to return e-mails and phone calls, and I wouldn't be able to do that for (the current) pay. I'm otherwise being parsimonious."
The resolution goes to the Common Council on Tuesday, and because the mayoral pay rate is not set by ordinance, the council could act immediately, without the usual introduction and referral back to committee.
State law does not allow elected officials to raise their own salaries during their term, meaning that if it is not the will of the Common Council to raise the mayor's salary before the April 2012 election, it won't be able to raise it until the next term after begins in 2016.
Community Development actions
In other action, the Community Development Committee unanimously approved second hearings of three requests, meaning they will now go to the Common Council for a final vote on Tuesday.
- A conditional use permit to expand the Highlands Café at 1413 N. 60th St.;
- A conditional use permit to operate a grocery store at 10701 West North Ave.; and
- An ordinance amendment adding the East Tosa North Avenue Plan to the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
The second item is a proposal to move the Indian Groceries and Spices store across 107th Street from its current location so that it can expand on the ground floor of a vacant three-story commercial building.