Rhode Island’s Highest Paid Mayors and Managers
Monday, November 18, 2013
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?
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
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).
#33 Central Falls
Chief Executive Pay: $26,000 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $51,500 (A)
#31 West Greenwich
Chief Executive Pay: $60,866 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $67,799 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $70,000 (A)
#28 North Smithfield
Chief Executive Pay: $71,289 (E)
#27 North Providence
Chief Executive Pay: $75,000 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $75,000 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $78,677 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $80,000 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $80,765 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $81,162 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $83,900 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $84,253 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $89,000 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $93,000 (A)
#17 New Shoreham
Chief Executive Pay: $95,146 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $100,000 (E)
Chief Executive Pay: $100,940 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $106,957 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $110,520 (A)
#12 North Kingstown
Chief Executive Pay: $111,394 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $117,305 (A)
#10 West Warwick
Chief Executive Pay: $120,000 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $122,000 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $123,762 (E)
#7 East Providence
Chief Executive Pay: $125,000 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $126,000 (A)
#5 East Greenwich
Chief Executive Pay: $131,005 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $135,000 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $143,977 (A)
Chief Executive Pay: $147,350 (A)
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