City councilors plan to freeze the pay of Bristol’s elected leaders for the next two years, but a committee turned back an attempt to reduce salaries instead.
The three-person Salary Committee recently backed a pay freeze that would lock in this year’s salary levels through 2011.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro, who chairs the salary panel, said the freeze would send a message to taxpayers and municipal workers that Bristol’s elected leaders are ready to set an example for the sacrifices needed to get through the economic crisis.
But city Councilor Cliff Block said he would prefer to slice the pay levels by 3 percent so that election officials would make what they did in 2008.
Block argued that when the 3 percent raise for this year was set back in 2007, “we didn’t know the world was coming to an end in ’08.”
He said that nobody would have supported that increase had they known so much turmoil and heartache lay ahead.
Block said a pay cut would send an even stronger message than a freeze.
But Nicastro and the panel’s other member, city Councilor Mike Rimcoski, said that a pay freeze was enough.
Nicastro said that he’s not running for reelection so the money doesn’t matter to him at all. He said this simply a matter of conscience and fairness.
“We had a chance to make a statement,” Block said, “but I got outmaneuvered by the two older gents.”
Block said that Ward, the only elected leader to earn full-time pay, would lose about $3,000 a year the council backed a 3 percent cut.
“Art doesn’t need that other 3 grand,” Block said.
Rimcoski said he would go along with letting officials have the option of taking less money, if that’s possible.
Block said that taking less money themselves would perhaps help with efforts to push for the city’s unions to accept cuts.
But Nicastro and Rimcoski said there is no way that municipal unions would ever agree to a pay cut. A freeze, they said, is possible. But a pay cut goes too far, they said.
“I want a pay cut,” Block said.
In committee, Block was the only one to vote for the 3 percent cut. He did not join Nicastro and Rimcoski in voting for the freeze instead.
Rimcoski, the salary panel’s only Republican, said he favored a freeze because that’s what Mayor Art Ward asked the panel to do.
Nicastro said that he wouldn’t necessarily object to cutting the pay for councilors and the mayor, but it would be wrong to slice the pay of the treasurer or Board of Assessment Appeals members who earn so little now.
But the difference is minimal.
A Board of Assessment Appeals member would make $1,140 for the next two years if pay is frozen. It it’s cut 3 percent, he would get $33 a year less.
The treasurer would earn $296 less over the two years if his pay were cut 3 percent.
The Salary Committee’s pay freeze proposal heads to the council in March, where it’s possible another effort to cut the pay of elected officials may be made.
Current pay for city leaders
Mayor - $102,025
City councilors - $10,156
City treasurer - $5,079
Board of Assessment Appeals chair -- $1,343
Board of Assessment Appeals - $1,140
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