A board assembled by the mayor to look at raises for city councilors today recommended an 11% raise, which would bring council pay to roughly $97,000 starting in January.
City Councilor Bill Linehan said he will file a measure on Wednesday for a higher increase, Mayor Walsh's past veto of a higher raise be damned.
"We're not going to back down," Linehan said.
At a council hearing today, Compensation Advisory Board Chairwoman Deborah Shah said the board looked at salaries and council responsibilities in Baltimore, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle, as well as the salaries of Boston department heads in coming up with its proposal. She said council pay has not kept up with the rate of inflation since the last raise in 2006 - but said that if you had gone back 20 years, council pay was well above the inflation rate.
Linehan, however, said councilors haven't gotten a raise in 9 years and probably won't ask for one for another five to eight years, so the amount is just not enough, especially since Boston's inflation rate is higher than in other parts of the country. And he said that, unlike city department heads, any raise the council gets won't be retroactive. He noted that when he worked in the administration of Mayor Menino, he made $103,500.
"We are undervalued and your report devalues us," Linehan said. "I can't for the life of me figure out how you got to $97,000."
Linehan said the board's report was like a report by somebody who had never shopped in a supermarket before. "We know the value of a banana," he said. "We know the value of steak."
"The report is suspect," he said, adding the report should have been completed in 60 to 90 days, not the nine months it took.
Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester) said councilors do more for residents than middle managers making the same amount - and that Boston councilors should be judged on their effectiveness, not on the powers defined in the city charter. "I think our jobs are arguably more demanding than department heads," he said.
Baker tore into what he said were errors in the report: Boston district councilors represent 70,000 people, not the 49,000 people cited by the board. Board member Chris English said the board divided the city's population by the total number of councilors - even though four of them represent the entire city, not districts.
Baker said he found any comparison to Dallas, as used in the report, "disrespectful."
At-large Councilor Steve Murphy disputed that the Boston City Council is the "least powerful" of the city councils in the five cities and said all the council's work and authority seems to have been undervalued in the report. Linehan angrily questioned why no Boston city councilors or the council attorney were able to make the case to the board. English said that was an unfortunate oversight.
Murphy said the council more than proved its worth in helping the city keep its triple-A bond rating during difficult economic times. He said that in bringing up huge raises of 20 years ago, the board was setting a bad example for collective bargaining for other city workers.
Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), who voted against large raises last year, said the council should consider a process in which council salaries are pegged to the inflation rate so that they don't have to keep going through the awkward task of considering its own raises.
At-large Councilor Michelle Wu, who also voted against raises last year, said she found it "pretty annoying" the issue was still coming up.
Councilor Mark Ciommo (Allston/Brighton) said he has worked for eight years now without a raise and doesn't think that's fair. At a minimum, councilors are entitled to at least a raise equal to the cost of living increase over the past eight years.
Councilor Charles Yancey (Dorchester) said there are currently some 3,800 city employees with higher base salaries than city councilors.