Rhode Island’s Highest Paid Mayors and Managers

Monday, November 18, 2013

 

View Larger +

In 2012, sixteen municipal chief executives -- mayors, town managers, and administrators -- made six figures or more in salary, as did over a half dozen finance and planning directors, according to data available on the state's municipal finance website.

The information, which includes base salary as well as longevity pay, shows that Mayors across the state accounted for three of the top twenty compensated chief executive positions. Just two -- Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian -- made over $100,000, while the remaining ten elected positions were among the 15 lowest compensated chief executive municipal executives.  

See How Much Municipal Chief Executives Made in 2012 BELOW

"The compensation of municipal employees in Rhode Island is an embarrassment -- it is too low for many of the job titles," said URI Distinguished Professor of Business Edward Mazze. "Taxpayers would like to pay below the market rate while expecting high performance. The first cut in government budgets is always personnel. We need government employees at management levels with the appropriate education, skills and attitude to get the job done. Government compensation is not equal to the private sector at management levels."

Some, however, including Monique Chartier with RI Taxpayers, thought that municipal employee compensation should be "on the table" as cities and towns address budgetary decisions.

"Taxpayers should maximize their input and their voices in the matter of the public budgets funded by their hard earned tax dollars by attending public budget meetings and communicating their concerns to their elected officials. And they have good reason to be concerned inasmuch as property taxes in Rhode Island are the fourth highest nationally and the state's combined state and local tax burden is sixth highest."

Chartier continued, "Accordingly, the option of a tax increase simply cannot enter the equation. The question of municipal employee compensation absolutely must be on the table, specifically including benefits such as healthcare, paid time off (vacation, sick and personal days) and retirement. The related option of privatizing certain municipal services, while anathema in some quarters, must also be in the budget control mix."

Salaries as Necessary -- or Negotiable?

View Larger +

The municipal information, which is compiled by the State Department of Revenue's Office of Local Government Assistance, includes salary data for town and city clerks, school superintendents, tax assessors, building code officials, engineers, fire and police chiefs, and personnel directors

While mayors were in general in the middle to low-end of compensated municipal chief executives, in several instances, finance and planning directors out-earned the CEO slot.

With 39 districts in the state, conversations about consolidation have been taking place for years. Mazze, however, countered cost-savings cuts with the need to attract -- and retain -- top talent.

"Elected officials, and those running for office, like to talk about how they are going to cut budgets by eliminating personnel and services, consolidating departments and sharing services with neighboring communities. In many cases, this is the impossible dream. The positions they want eliminated or consolidated are critical to the vitality and economic development of their communities," said Mazze.  

Mazze continued, "Starting salaries for graduates of the best graduate business programs in the United States are in the range of $125,000 to $150,000 in 2013. How many Rhode Island municipal managers are making this salary now? Very few. How many of these managers have masters degrees in business? Even fewer. How many municipal governments need to act like a business? Every city and town. And, unfortunately until we find new sources of revenue [and have returned the Rhode Island economy to a better position by creating private sector jobs] we will have more government downsizing and lose even more of the best qualified municipal managers."  

Others, however, questioned compensation levels in light of pressing budgetary concerns.

"Recruiting and retaining top talent is important for any organization, be it private or public sector. However, the public sector is not a for-profit center and taxpayers should no longer be treated as bottomless ATM machines to support bloated budgets," said Lisa Blais with OSTPA, a taxpayer advocacy group.

"Public sector compensation historically provided exceptional benefits and lower pay for public service. Those days are long gone to the detriment of municipal budgets and the taxpayers who have to pay for them. Even top level officials should receive a lesser overall compensation package than what they might receive in the private sector if they are interested in "public service," said Blais.  

Blais added, "Let me share a story from the City of Providence, the same city that imposed egregious property tax increases on many homeowners. Trash and yard waste is scheduled for pick up on a weekly basis. One week yard waste wasn't picked up. It took 2 solid weeks before it was but a DPW employee had no problem telling me to "Stop calling me! I did my job".

Public vs. Private Sector Compensation, Consolidation

View Larger +

Former Director of Administration Gary Sasse offered his perspective on municipal compensation. "A cursory review indicates that municipal salaries are certainly not extravagant or out of line with the private sector. From a taxpayer perspective I would be more concerned with redundancy and whether number of units of government can be consolidated to reduce high cost positions."

Addressing the possibility of consolidation, Chartier addressed Woonsocket Mayor-Elect Lisa Baldelli-Hunt's assertion during her campaign that she will eliminate the position of the city's Economic Director and take those duties on herself.

"Like the rest of the state, Woonsocket suffers above all from insufficient economic activity. So while the necessity of every staff position in a public budget should be constantly examined, elimination of the position of Economic Director would not seem to be the optimal message to send to prospective businesses when economic development is a priority. But, without question, it is her perogative to take this step. What matters is results. It will be interesting to see if she is able to identify economic development opportunities that she seems to think were missed by the prior administration. For the sake of the taxpayers and businesses of Woonsocket, we will definitely be cheering her on!" 

 

Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s Highest Paid Mayors and Managers

The Rhode Island Department of Revenue's Office of Local Government Assistance, for the past 23 years, has conducted an "annual salary survey" of municipal positions in the state.  

Below are the salaries reported for chief executives -- Mayors or Town Managers ranked by municipalities (with the position) in 2012, from lowest to highest.   According to the survey, the amount "does not include fringe benefit data."  

Positions appointed are indicated with an (A); positions elected are marked with an (E).  

View Larger +
Prev Next

#33 Central Falls

Chief Executive Pay: $26,000 (E)

Finance Director: $87,125
 
Planning Director: $66,625
View Larger +
Prev Next

#32 Richmond

Chief Executive Pay: $51,500 (A)

Finance Director: $56,706
 
Planning Director: $50,218
View Larger +
Prev Next

#31 West Greenwich

Chief Executive Pay: $60,866 (A)

Finance Director: N/A
 
Planning Director: $52,412
View Larger +
Prev Next

#30 Cumberland

Chief Executive Pay: $67,799 (E)

Finance Director: (Vacant -- PT)
 
Planning Director: $70,250
View Larger +
Prev Next

#29 Warren

Chief Executive Pay: $70,000 (A)

Finance Director: $62,424
 
Planning Director: $52,020
View Larger +
Prev Next

#28 North Smithfield

Chief Executive Pay: $71,289 (E)

Finance Director: $71,235
 
Planning Director: $58,394
View Larger +
Prev Next

#27 North Providence

Chief Executive Pay: $75,000 (E)

Finance Director: $52,000
 
Planning Director: $62,098
View Larger +
Prev Next

#26 Johnston

Chief Executive Pay: $75,000 (E)

Finance Director: $95,000
 
Planning Director: $69,746
View Larger +
Prev Next

#25 Lincoln

Chief Executive Pay: $78,677 (E)

Finance Director: $80,610
 
Planning Director: $67,709
View Larger +
Prev Next

#24 Woonsocket

Chief Executive Pay: $80,000 (E)

Finance Director: $90,000
 
Planning Director: $82,750
View Larger +
Prev Next

#23 Cranston

Chief Executive Pay: $80,765 (E)

Finance Director: $96,425
 
Planning Director: $75,247
View Larger +
Prev Next

#22 Bristol

Chief Executive Pay: $81,162 (E)

Finance Director: N/A
 
Planning Director: $78,438
View Larger +
Prev Next

#21 Tiverton

Chief Executive Pay: $83,900 (A)

Finance Director: N/A
 
Planning Director: Vacant
View Larger +
Prev Next

#20 Pawtucket

Chief Executive Pay: $84,253 (E)

Finance Director: $82,000
 
Planning Director: $72,269
View Larger +
Prev Next

#19 Hopkinton

Chief Executive Pay: $89,000 (A)

Finance Director: $73,043
 
Planning Director: $51,816
View Larger +
Prev Next

#18 Charlestown

Chief Executive Pay: $93,000 (A)

Finance Director: N/A
 
Planning Director: $67,546
View Larger +
Prev Next

#17 New Shoreham

Chief Executive Pay: $95,146 (A)

Finance Director: $85,058
 
Planning Director: N/A
View Larger +
Prev Next

#16 Warwick

Chief Executive Pay: $100,000 (E)

Finance Director: $118,249
 
Planning Director: $97,648
View Larger +
Prev Next

#15 Smithfield

Chief Executive Pay: $100,940 (A)

Finance Director: $77,250
 
Planning Director: $65,920
View Larger +
Prev Next

#14 Jamestown

Chief Executive Pay: $106,957 (A)

Finance Director: $82,426
 
Planning Director: $71,481
View Larger +
Prev Next

#13 Burrillville

Chief Executive Pay: $110,520 (A)

Finance Director: $80,000
 
Planning Director: $80,000
View Larger +
Prev Next

#12 North Kingstown

Chief Executive Pay: $111,394 (A)

Finance Director: $82,442
 
Planning Director: $82,442
View Larger +
Prev Next

#11 Westerly

Chief Executive Pay: $117,305 (A)

Finance Director: $106,088
 
Planning Director: $76,812
View Larger +
Prev Next

#10 West Warwick

Chief Executive Pay: $120,000 (A)

Finance Director: $91,357
 
Planning Director: $69,000
View Larger +
Prev Next

#9 Coventry

Chief Executive Pay: $122,000 (A)

Finance Director: $97,150
 
Planning Director: $83,884
View Larger +
Prev Next

#8 Providence

Chief Executive Pay: $123,762 (E)

Finance Director: $140,000
 
Planning Director: $85,098
View Larger +
Prev Next

#7 East Providence

Chief Executive Pay: $125,000 (A)

Finance Director: $112,210
 
Planning Director: $97,350
View Larger +
Prev Next

#6 Portsmouth

Chief Executive Pay: $126,000 (A)

Finance Director: $95,819
 
Planning Director: $78,382
 
View Larger +
Prev Next

#5 East Greenwich

Chief Executive Pay: $131,005 (A)

Finance Director: $96,255
 
Planning Director: $77,835
View Larger +
Prev Next

#4 Newport

Chief Executive Pay: $135,000 (A)

Finance Director: $120,799
 
Planning Director: $100,531
View Larger +
Prev Next

#3 Barrington

Chief Executive Pay: $143,977 (A)

Finance Director: $106,194
 
Planning Director: $75,716
View Larger +
Prev Next

#2 Middletown

Chief Executive Pay: $147,350 (A)

Finance Director: $97,025
 
Planning Director: $89,436
View Larger +
Prev Next

#1 South Kingstown

Chief Executive: $153,853 (A)

Finance Director: $119,610
 
Planning Director: $93,181
 
 

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

 
 

Sign Up for the Daily Eblast

I want to follow on Twitter

I want to Like on Facebook

Delivered Free Every
Day to Your Inbox