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The mayor's pay: Past time for a raise in Manchester

Back in 1996, a voter-approved revision to Manchester's City Charter gave aldermen the authority to raise the mayor's pay. Though the voters obviously thought the mayor deserved periodic pay raises, aldermen never gave them. "It always came up in an election year, and nobody wanted to get involved," former Alderman Mike Lopez, a member of the new charter commission, said last week.

That is why charter commissioners were right last week to approve a motion to raise the mayor's pay substantially. The current salary is $68,000 a year. Veteran teachers and police officers can make more than that. The commission approved a proposal to set the salary at $107,937, an increase of almost 59 percent.

That is a huge jump, and such a big move would be better made in smaller increments. But the ending place is roughly appropriate. The mayor of the state's largest city need not be paid as much as a hospital CEO, but the pay needs to be enough to land top executive talent from the private sector. A salary in the $100,000 range would do that.

Mayor Ted Gatsas is independently wealthy (by his own hand), so the pay is not an issue for him. It would be for many others. Unlike serving in the Legislature or on a city board, being mayor is a full-time job. If the city wants executives of skill, talent and experience, it should offer a level of compensation that would not necessarily attract them, but that would not be a disincentive to them.

Public service is its own reward, to a point. People who could be making $200,000 a year in the private sector might sacrifice a few years of financial rewards to serve the people of the city. But requiring them to take a 66 percent pay cut makes it much less likely that they will.

Though we are not sold on the charter commission's method for this pay increase, a significant raise is needed, and they are right to propose one.

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