Mayor Daniel Bianchi said it is difficult to set expectations for a manager who hasn't had a raise in a number of years.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council approved boosting the pay of city managers and changing the way they receive future raises.
After years of work with consultants and subcommittees, the city developed a plan to spend around $200,000 to give 27 department heads raises.
The raises will bring the position salaries up to market rate — a consultant study showed the city paid about 12 percent less for managers than comparable management structures.
"It is not a popular vote to vote in favor of it, but I do believe it is the right thing to do," said Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli.
According to Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont, 14 of the people in those 27 positions have been employed by the city for less than four years. Only two have been employed by the city for more than a decade.
"Over the years, we have had an issue with turnover, no doubt about it. Pittsfield is a training ground," said Ward 6 Councilor John Krol.
But the raises aren't just about retention, according to Mayor Daniel Bianchi. The mayor put forth the proposal in an attempt for better management. The plan phases out pay just for longevity and develops a merit-based system in which the mayor can lay out expectations and the next step level is tied to performance.
"I think we took a tremendous step in professionalism," Bianchi said. "It was something that needed to be done."
Bianchi said he asked the department heads this year to develop goals with their annual budgets. However, he said it is difficult to hold the heads to those standards when they hadn't had raises in years and were making less than similar positions.
"This will make [the goals] much more meaningful," the mayor said.
Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop said management ultimately saves the taxpayers more money, and the new pay scales and evaluation system will improve operations.
"Good management saves money every single time," he said. "The reality is that we don't touch this very often because it is difficult and it is political."
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo said that every time there is turnover, the city incurs both direct and indirect costs to replace and train somebody else for the open position.
The mayor said that not all of the 27 department heads will receive boosts — each ranging in percentage based on the newly developed scales. Eight of the positions will receive their pay increase in steps — such as the new cultural development director who will be phased in based on performance.
The city has $300,000 set aside in the budget but Bianchi said about $195,000 will be spent. Some of the raises had been pared down through committee meetings. Meanwhile, from the original $300,000 request, the mayor's position was removed from the raises.
Councilor at LArge Kathleen Amuso said she still had concerns with the percentages some of the positions receive and she would have liked to see some hours increased — many of the department chiefs are listed to work 35 hours.
Councilor At Large Kathleen Amuso was one of two to vote against the new pay structure.
"I would like to have seen all of the hours moved up to a 40-hour or a 20-hour based on their commitment," she said.
Amuso with Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi opposed the petition.
"The increases are way too high for some of them," Morandi said, adding that the city's health insurance plan is much better than many private companies are offering. "People are really struggling out there, working two or three jobs."
Morandi and Christopher Connell both disputed that the pay scale was solely responsible for turnover. The city has had a number of retirements, managers have found more fitting positions with the same pay, or some have moved away for other reasons.
Connell nonetheless voted in favor of the petition.
"This is a good starting point for department managers. After this point, we should go to a performance-based system," he said. "We had to start somewhere and after several meetings this is what we negotiated."
The question of the city clerk revolved around her role as an elected official. The mayor was removed from the original position because if not, he would be in charge of his own pay and the clerk was later taken out as well.
However, since the city clerk can't vote on the petition and her removal would leave her without an ordinance outlining her pay, the council put her back in. Ultimately, the council believed she serves as much more of a manager than an elected official.