Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Mayoral Compensation Goes to Full Council

Life In Tosa, Mayor Didier, Palace Intrigue, Politics-Tosa, Public Policy, Wauwatosa, Wauwatosa Politics

The Committee on Employee Relations met tonight on the subject of mayoral salary and compensation.  Mind you this has nothing to do with Mayor Didier.  This has everything to do with the mayoral term beginning in April of 2012.

Maybe I'm naive - but I happen to like my local government small and non-partisan.  I like my elected representatives to be service-minded and giving of their time and talents.  We can hire professionals to run departments and make the city hum. 

I suppose I'm stuck in an earlier and simpler time when it comes to how local government should operate. Which is why I have tried to make the time to attend these committee meetings and speak my mind.

This is essentially what I shared with the committee this evening.

Perhaps the cash portion of the mayoral salary has been stuck in time as well and should be raised.  Maybe to $30,000 or thereabouts.  The Council will have to determine what the market (taxpayers) will bear.

Don't forget the non-cash comp that comes with the position. Very nice fringes - health coverage (far better than that found in the private sector), State of Wisconsin pension, group life, etc.  Add another $22,000+ of non-taxable compensation - give or take - depending upon recent and pending increases in employee contributions.  The way I figure it if your tax bracket is in the 'sweet spot' this can be a sweet deal.

Bottom line is total compensation at present is in the neighborhood of $44,500 - half of which is either tax-exempt or tax-deferred.

I will not yield on my stance that if you make this position really lucrative - the next time some State Senator, Assemblyman or County Supervisor from Tosa loses an election they're going to glob on to this. 

This has all the potential to attract - not a wider pool of qualified candidates - but a bigger pool of partisan politicians. The job of mayor then becomes less one of service and more a placeholder position for career politicians more interested in making sure their years of service in a government pension system remain uninterrupted.  

I am of the opinion that this would be a dangerous precedent with a poor outcome for sound, local fiscal management.

I never got around to mentioning this but I’m surprised there hasn't been more push-back from the self-described conservative faction of our Council.  My impression is that they appear more supportive than reluctant of expanding local government.  Are they only paying lip service to small local goverment or am I mistaken?

There was discussion about whether or not the job is full time or part time.  Committee members ranged all over on this.  For Ald. Ewerdt this should be a family-supporting job.  Furthermore, as Chief Executive Officer the pay should reflect both the support needs of family and the responsibilities of CEO.  Ald. Berdan agreed on the matter of Chief Executive Officer but felt the timing was terrible.  Ald. Walsh pointed out that while Oshkosh is significantly larger than Tosa they only pay their mayor six grand a year.  Hardly a family supporting position.  Chairman Donegan opined that the position is part-time - something less than half-time.

In my view the position has no job description and should not have a job description.  Who says it should support anything.

The mayor presides over the Council (tie breaker and veto role) and sets the tone. While Wisconsin statute defines mayors as the chief executive - Tosa city ordinance conveys those powers to our very competent city administrator who is well and fairly compensated for his professional work in running the city.

The job of mayor is largely ceremonial so whoever serves in that role can make as much or as little of it as they wish. That is why the pay scale is largely ceremonial too - to fit the job.

As Chairman Donegan explained it - our recent mayors have been over-achievers.  More credit to them.

If we don’t like the job the city manager is doing and would rather have more of that professional work done by a mayor then that should be the focus of the discussion.

If we desire to reconsider the size of the Council and redirect the savings to boost the mayor’s salary then that should be part of the discussion.  

Maybe we should look at larger questions like these rather than suffering guilt or inferiority feelings about the mayor’s pay.

But why tinker with success, especially at a time of great budget stress for the city and its citizens?

For the large part we should leave the mayor’s pay and responsibilities alone.

Committee sent a recommendation to the full Council to raise the salary of our future mayors to $30,000.  Walsh was the sole dissenting vote.

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