City Council Overturns Mayor’s Veto, Raises Councilor Salaries

city hall, keara hanlon

The Newton City Council overturned Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s veto of its earlier decision to raise the salaries of city councilors and the mayor at its meeting on Monday night. The City Council did not vote to raise the pay for School Committee members—that will go to a vote later in the year. Fuller’s veto was the first issued by a Newton mayor in 20 years.

The original order for the pay raise was passed by the City Council on Sept. 16—there were three parts: one concerning a raise for the mayor, another for the raise for city councilors, and a third for the raise for School Committee members. The City Council initially passed all three items with votes of 22-2. The City Council must override the mayoral veto separately for each item as well. To override a veto, the City Council needs a two-thirds majority vote.

Marc Laredo, president of the City Council, said that the municipal government incorrectly assumed that item C, the raise for School Committee members, would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, like that for the city councilors. If the Council decided to override the veto for item C, the raise for School Committee members would have gone into effect on Oct. 27, 2019, which is earlier than anticipated.

To address the issue, Laredo proposed item D as an addition to the order, which specified that the raise will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, like that of city councilors. While the proposed salary remains at $7,750, Laredo said that is this the “cleanest and easiest way” to fix the oversight of the start date for the raise.

The Council began the voting process without discussion. For item A, which raises the mayor’s pay to $155,000, the Council overrode the veto by a vote of 22-1. For item B, which raises the pay for council members to $15,500, the City Council overrode the mayor’s veto by the same margin.

A brief interlude occurred when Leonard Gentile, councilor-at-large for Ward 4, interrupted and said that the City Council needs a motion from a councilor before it can vote on overriding the mayor’s veto. Laredo said that the Council will revote according to the suggestion of Gentile to ensure that the Council followed the right procedures.

“I appreciate the clarification. We don’t want any procedural glitches with this,” Laredo said. “So we’ll go back and revote, so we are crystal clear [about] what we’re doing.”

Councilor Gregory Schwarz for Ward 6 asked whether the procedure would allow the Council to skip item C if no councilor put forward a motion that calls for a vote. Olsen confirmed Schwarz was correct.

The Council then returned to the first item, calling for a new round of voting, with councilors proposing a motion for each item voted on. Item A and item B were passed. The Council agreed to place item D on the agenda with a unanimous vote of 23.

With the mayor’s veto overridden, the mayor’s raise will go into effect on Jan.1, 2022 and city councilors’ on January 1, 2020. Meanwhile, the School Committee members’ raise will be referred to the Programs and Services Committee and subsequently the Finance Committee. Eventually, the City Council will vote on item D on Nov. 4, 2019. 

City councilors are currently paid $9,750. School Committee members are paid $4,875, and the mayor has a salary of $125,000 per year.

Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / For The Heights