HARTFORD —— Voters will decide in November whether the city council should get pay raises next year that would increase their salaries by nearly 80 percent.
The council voted 7-2 Monday to send the issue to a referendum. It will appear on the November ballot.
Council members' salaries are set to rise from $15,000 to $26,650 in 2012. Voters narrowly approved that increase in a 2008 referendum.
"Given our fiscal position, I don't feel at this point that it's appropriate to raise our salaries," said Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, who voted in favor of a new referendum. "We are the highest-paid group of municipal legislators" in the state.
Some council members said they were concerned that voters didn't have a clear picture of what they were supporting in 2008.
Councilman Robert Painter has said that the language on the 2008 ballot didn't make clear how large a pay increase members were to receive.
Councilman Jim Boucher said the panel had for months been considering whether to call for another referendum, this time to repeal the pay increases. He and four others — Councilmen Calixto Torres, Larry Deutsch, Kennedy and Painter — sponsored an ordinance earlier this month that would allow voters to rescind the raises.
Torres said that the 2008 vote was taken before the "financial disaster" hit, and that voters should have the opportunity to decide once again if the panel should receive raises.
"I believe that providing the council with that same $15,000 stipend is more than adequate," he said. "The role of the city council is not a full-time position."
Others on the council have spoken out against the ordinance.
President rJo Winch said it limits the candidates who could run for city council by "weeding out" the unemployed or underemployed. She said people who have a strong passion for the community, but who don't make enough money, should still have an incentive to apply.
Winch, however, voted in favor of the referendum Monday, saying she would support the council's majority.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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