Just days after new Councilman Corey Brinson declined his $15,000 city salary, council members are considering putting forth an ordinance calling for a referendum to repeal the council's salary raises set to take effect in 2012.
Hartford's nine council members now make $15,000 a year for their service. In 2008, they voted in favor of a referendum that let voters decide if they should get a $11,650 pay raise, bringing their annual salaries to $26,650. The voters said yes. (11,563 voted in favor of it, 10,897 voted against it)
The raises will take effect in January 2012.
Now Councilman Jim Boucher has proposed introducing a new ordinance that would let voters decide whether council members should still get that raise. The ordinance will likely go before the council for a vote in March, and some members already said they would support it. The referendum would be in November 2011.
Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, who voted against the 2008 referendum, says he supports Boucher's proposed ordinance.
"My position on this has been very consistent. I thought at the time -- and still do -- that we're paid enough," Kennedy said. "Given the budget scenario we're in, [the raises] are completely inappropriate."
Kennedy pointed out that the Hartford City Council is the highest paid city/town council in the state.
Councilman Luis Cotto took it a step further Monday, suggesting that council positions be altogether unpaid beginning in 2012.
Although Cotto supported the raises in 2008, he said the city is in a "vastly different financial situation" now than it was when the raises were approved.
"I think, at the end of the day, what we're doing is putting more disposable income in the pockets of people who honestly don't need it," he said."It's unfair all around."
Brinson said he's opposed to having unpaid council positions in 2012.
"Even though I chose to decline my salary, there's nothing wrong with working for the government and being compensated for it," he said. "What having [unpaid positions] does is allow only well-to-do people or retirees who have a pension to serve on the council, and that's not representative of our Democracy here in Hartford."
Brinson said a referendum regarding the repeal of salary raises should wait until November 2012, so that members of next council -- who are to be elected in November 2011 -- have a say in their own salaries.