WALLINGFORD — A raise in the mayor’s salary may be on the table this week during the Town Council’s meeting on amendments to the 2021-22 budget proposal.
At the council’s budget workshop April 13, Councilor Chris Shortell suggested increasing the mayor’s salary by around 50 percent, from $96,000 to $140,000 or $150,000.
The Town Council has a meeting scheduled for Thursday to make changes to Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s proposed 2021-22 town budget before voting to adopt a budget May 11.
If the council does not adopt a budget, the mayor’s proposal goes into effect automatically.
Shortell said during the April 13 meeting that according to his research, the mayor’s salary is lower than that of 356 other municipal employees, including 311 Board of Education employees. There are a total of about 1,300 town and Board of Education employees.
He added that he’s “fairly sure” Dickinson is the lowest paid town executive in the area.
“In my brief time on the council,” he said, “… we’ve talked about this. We’ve never actually done it. We can only do it during (a municipal) election year, which this is. I think we should raise the mayor’s salary.”
The mayor’s salary is set by the Town Council and was last increased in 2016, according to the town’s Human Resources department.
Dickinson took office in 1984. His salary at the time was $37,500. Adjusted for inflation, that amount has the same buying power today as $97,477, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Dickinson received a salary increase every other year from 1986 to 1990. Since Dickinson took office, the longest gap between mayoral pay raises was 12 years — from 2002, when his salary was $73,140, to 2014, when it was raised to $85,140.
Dickinson’s current salary of $96,000 was approved five years ago. A pay increase in line with the rate of inflation would put that figure at $107,329 today.
Mayor opposes increase
Shortell said he suggested the salary increase not only to properly compensate Dickinson, but as an overall increase to the mayor’s office.
He said the increase could be funded through a small mill rate increase. Dickinson did not respond to Shortell’s idea that night.
The mayor, elected every other year, is the chief executive officer of the town. All town department and agency heads report to the mayor, who also appoints certain personnel.
A great part of the mayor’s job is the creation of the town budget every year, based on spending requests from town department heads.
Tom Laffin, Town Council vice chairman, said on the April 22 episode of WPAA’s “The Citizen Mike Show” that in the past when the council has tried to raise the mayor’s salary, Dickinson has refused.
“It’s not necessarily about him (Dickinson), it’s about the office,” Laffin said. “… The mayor always says he doesn’t want it (when) we try to increase it. Any other budget gains may draw a mayoral veto and if that holds, we’ll lose that increase as well.”
The mayor does not have a line item veto, but can veto the entire budget, which is what happened last year. The Town Council voted to override Dickinson’s veto and passed a budget with a zero mill rate increase.
Dickinson said Tuesday that he would not support increasing his salary due to the ongoing economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now is not the time to be increasing the wages of elected people,” Dickinson said. “We're just not at a place that I think we should be dealing with increasing costs because of any individual office.”