Pittsfield Councilors Still Divided on Pay Raises

By Joe DurwiniBerkshires Staff
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The Committee on Rules & Ordinance failed to pass a recommendation to adopt a new pay structure when the vote tied 2-2.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Despite another hour of debate on Monday, City Council President Melissa Mazzeo and Vice President Christopher Connell failed to sway their colleagues on the council's Ordinance & Rules committee on a further revised plan to restructure pay for city employees.  
The subcommittee voted 2-2 on whether to recommend to the council an amended ordinance revising the personnel section of the city code, with Councilors Kathleen Amuso and Kevin Morandi against.
Both councilors have remained firm in their opposition in recent months, despite several significant revisions to the new compensation plan put forth by Mayor Daniel Bianchi based on a year and a half study by Stone Consulting.   
According to its Management Classification and Compensation Study, Pittsfield is paying 12 percent below the median level for comparable management professional positions in Massachusetts, even after adjusting for geographical cost of living factors.
"I still think some of the increases are too much," said Amuso. "I still think some people don't make enough money but when I look at some of the percentage increases, I can't vote for this."
As currently amended, the total in pay increases involved in the reclassification plan has been pared down from $300,000 to about $188,000 in the first year, already budgeted for this fiscal year in anticipation of some form of personnel raises.
In subsequent years, the amount could be less, as the new plan offers salary ranges and future increases would be based more on merit and established performance goals as recommended by the study.
"It is also the intent of the ordinance to give the mayor the latitude to adjust or work within that range,"  said Mayor Daniel Bianchi.
"These are proposed salary ranges, they're not set in stone," agreed Mazzeo. "I think there's a point in time where we have to back up our role after we set the structure, and then let the mayor take over the next step of this."
Mazzeo, who along with Connell had additional meetings with Stone Consulting following a stalemate on the issue in June, said the committee had "done their due diligence" in reviewing and revising the proposal over the past three months.
Proponents of the new pay ranges, which include raises for a variety of managerial and department head positions, say these employees are long overdue salary increases on par in percentage with those already received over the years by most municipal and school department employees as part of collective bargaining agreements.
"I'm not saying they don't deserve them. Some of them do and some of them don't, that's my opinion," said Morandi, who added that the real issue was affording it. "People are really struggling out there."
"It's hard for me to defend this," Morandi continued, noting vocal disapproval he'd heard from many constituents.
Connell said the ordinance gave the city the opportunity to adopt a "more of a business model." 
"It's a hard sell, it really is," he said. "But I think it's necessary, and I think it's reasonable."
In the absence of the fifth member, Councilor Jonathan Lothrop, the committee could not break the tie and a motion to recommend the council pass the proposal failed.  

Tags: compensation & classification,   ordinance & rules ,   personnel,   salaries,   wages,   

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