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An increase in salary for the office of mayor of Montville appears to be in order; however, the timing is suspect.
The Town Council unanimously approved a $57.1 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. It includes a $19,000 raise for the mayor, a 31 percent pay increase. While that appears outrageous, any evaluation has to take into account how grossly underpaid the position is currently.
The town now pays Mayor Ronald McDaniel an annaul salary of $61,000, which seems absurd for a chief executive in charge of running a $19 million organization (the number that represents the municipal portion of Montville's budget).
What is inappropriate is that the raise will go into effect on July 1. It is a better practice for raises approved for elected positions to begin after the following election, which in the case of Montville's mayor is November 2015.
Without that stipulation, the action has the appearance of politicians giving themselves a pay hike, or in this case a Democratic-controlled council awarding the Democratic mayor. By making any pay increase effective only after the next election, our elected leaders make clear they see a need to increase compensation for the position, rather than simply acting to reward a particular individual.
Many communities build such a restriction on pay raises into their charter or by way of ordinance.
It remains to be seen whether there will be an attempt to force a referendum on the Montville spending plan. The mayoral pay raise issue doesn't appear to be reason enough to do so. Overall, the Montville budget - $37.2 million for education, about $19 million for the general government, and $932, 642 for capital improvements - appears reasonable.
It represents a 2 percent increase in spending, requiring a 0.31 mills tax hike, a $48 increase on a home assessed at $155,000.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Montville Councilors Billy Caron and Kathy Pollard, both Democrats, voted against the $20,000 pay raise for Mayor Ronald McDaniel’s salary. Caron proposed an incremental $10,000 pay raise instead. As originally published, the editorial did not mention Caron’s and Pollard’s opposition.