Overriding the objections of their colleagues, who sought more deliberation before raising the mayor's salary for the first time in more than four years, councilors voted Wednesday night to increase the annual pay from $105,000 to $125,000.
The new salary will take effect in January 2014 if approved by the full Town Council. Members of the Committee on Ways & Means came down 3-1-1 in favor of the pay bump, with Chair Paul "Dan" Clifford voting "present," saying that he disagreed with what he called the arbitrary number, but that he did not want to be an obstacle to a final agreement.
"It wasn't based on a process," Clifford said.
The proposal – first pitched last summer as an increase to $130,000 by Councilor John Mullaney – will go before the Committee on Ordinance & Rules on Jan. 15 before reaching the full council.
Over the course of several months and multiple meetings, councilors have debated, sometimes with anger and the occassional expletive, what would be a fair salary for Braintree's top elected official and how to create a formula for that number.
They looked at the pay of chief executives of comparable towns, those towns' budgets and personnel numbers, education requirements (which Braintree's charter does not include), real estate growth in Braintree, and the salaries of department heads and other municipal employees.
But on Wednesday night, just as it appeared more data and additional meetings would be necessary, councilors Mullaney, Tom Bowes and Henry Joyce halted the debate with a successful motion to put the number at $125,000. They reached that figure by adding incremental raises to the mayor's base pay through 2014 and adding several thousand dollars.
"He's not only an ambassador for the town, he's a representative," Mullaney said. "I don't want to compare myself to other towns. We are attracting the best... We need a top-flight mayor."
Clifford and Sean Powers, who voted against the proposal, argued that the council should take the time to craft a formula for the salary that would include factors such as the value of education, the salaries of other mayors, town managers and administrators, and various pay increases like annual union raises and Social Security cost-of-living increases.
"Whatever figure we come up with, I need to be able to explain to people," Powers said.
Bowes said that the number he and the other councilors decided on is equitable, and that he was growing frustrated by calls for more and more information.
"I didn't think when this came to us it was going to be such a lengthy process," Bowes said. "I'm disappointed we can't come together on a figure that is fair and we can justify."
The mayor's salary was set as $105,261.53 starting in January 2010 by a council vote in 2008, an $8,000 increase over the original number.
If set at $125,000, the mayor's annual pay would be comparable to other department heads such as the police and fire chiefs and the assistant school superintendent.
Mayor Joseph Sullivan has declined to comment on the issue. If approved, the salary would be in effect during the last two years of his second term.
The council has 18 months following the start of a new term to approve a salary increase, according to the Town Charter. It would then kick-in the January following the next regular town election.