During the mayoral debates, both mayoral finalists pledged to voters to try to keep Framingham affordable, while moving the new government forward.
But days before her inauguration on January 1, Mayor Yvonne Spicer began advertising for two new positions in her administration.
The two newly-advertised positions could mean the Mayor’s office would not be cost neutral this fiscal year.
“The Senior Policy Advisor will work closely with community leaders, municipal divisions and departments, the City Council, School Committee and Municipal Boards to enhance government services, provide a faster response to inquiries and more engagement,” according to the City’s Public Information Officer Nichol Figueiredo
“The Senior Advisor for External Affairs will serve as the primary liaison with the Statehouse, other Federal agencies and local government officials on projects affecting Framingham; and in particular policies that impact Framingham,” said Figueiredo.
A week after the Mayor announced these new positions, her transition team released its report.
In that report, there are suggestions for additional new positions to be created in the Spicer Administration.
They include a Communications Director, a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, and a Director of Neighborhood Services. The Mayor also has stated she may be interested in creating a Sustainability Director for the City of Framingham.
And, the New City of Framingham Charter directs the Mayor to hire a Citizens Participation Officer and a Chief Operating Officer.
The cost of all these new positions is unknown at this time.
What is a fact is that Mayor Spicer is the highest paid mayor in the Commonwealth.
In comparison, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh earns $175,000, and the Mayor of Newton makes $125,000.
Under the City Charter, the new Mayor of Framingham is paid what the former Town Manager was paid $186,639.50.
In moving to a city form of government, the Chief Operating Officer replaces the former Assistant Town Manager, similiar to how the Mayor replaces the former Town Manager.
The Assistant Town Manager was let go just before the inauguration and given a severance package. The Town Manager is staying on as a “special advisor to the Mayor” and being paid through June 30, 2018.
Framingham Source asked the Mayor how she plans to fund the two senior advisor positions on Friday.
Answering through the City of Framingham Public Information Officer, the response was “the two senior advisor positions will be funded through with a transfer within the General Government Division from a vacant Project Manager’s position. This position had been posted for a lengthy time and we have not been able to fill the position.”
“As a member of Framingham’s City Council Finance subcommittee, I am concerned by the proposed increase in the cost of the Mayor’s staff. It was my understanding that, per Framingham’s Charter, the expenses of the change from a Town with a Town Manager to a City with a Mayor would be cost neutral for the taxpayers since the Town Manager whose salary was $187,639, would be replaced by a Mayor at the same salary, and the Assistant Town Manager whose salary was $120,000, would be replaced by the Chief Operating Officer (COO) hired by the Mayor ((totaling $307,639). There would still be a Chief Financial Officer and the Assistant to the Board of Selectmen would be replaced by the Assistant to the Mayor at a comparable salary,” said District 8 City Councilor Judy Grove.
“The Mayor’s proposal to increase the salary of the COO by $30,000, and to add two new Senior Advisor positions (totaling $142,754 – $184,666) would cost the taxpayers $172,754 to $214,666, an increase of 56-70 percent in the Mayor’s budget,” said Grove.
The new 11-member City Council believes the Charter gives that government body the authority to approve any newly-created City of Framingham positions on the municipal side,and the money to fund the positions.
“It would be very helpful for the Mayor to provide the Council and the public her overall plan and goals for the Office of the Mayor, the rationale for her organizational structure and the funding needed,” said City Council Chair Dennis Giombetti.
“I and the City Council will certainly respect the Mayor’s desire to structure her organization to succeed and will work with Mayor Spicer to that end. But it is the city council’s role and responsibility to review and approve newly created positions and their fiscal impact,” said Giombetti, who represents District 5.
“I feel the Mayor is entitled to deference as to how she wants to form her administrative team,” said At-Large City Councilor George King. “At the same time the Council has the duty under state law to approve new positions and new pay rates for municipal employees.”
The Mayor did not specifically answer if she plans to create all of the positions recommended in the transition report, but answering Source’s question on behalf of the Mayor, Figueiredo said “the additional positions recommended in the Transitional Report will be built into the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, which the Mayor will present to the City Council as required by the Home Rule Charter.”
“The responsibilities and our expectations of the Mayor and the central office staff are different than those of the Town Manager and I didn’t expect the departmental structure of the central office to remain the same as it was under the Town form of government,” said District 2 City Councilor Pam Richardson. “Having said that, if the newly-created positions are filled there will need to be reductions in other areas of the budget to accommodate the increased salary obligations and my assumption at this time is that the Mayor will make those reductions and present a balanced budget to the City Council.”
“It is important that the Mayor assemble a team of exceptionally talented individuals to help move Framingham forward. It is also important for us to understand the financial impact of any newly-created positions and their effects on the pockets of our residents,” said District 4 City Councilor Mike Cannon.
“I am hopeful we can work together to assure the Mayor gets the tools she feels she needs, while satisfying my concerns and those of others to assure that there is cost neutrality,” said Councilor King.
“As we move forward to the new city landscape, the financial stability of the new city government is front and center and my number 1 concern. The recent revelations of new positions in the executive branch as well as the 2 follow on contracts for the town manager and assistant town manager presents financial
challenges within our budget. Coupled with the past FPS superintendent’s contract payout , the public needs assurances from their leaders that as the charter stipulates transiting to a city should be cost neutral. I want to assure my colleagues on the council as well as the mayor that I will challenge any cost growth in any area and demand a full accounting as to why now and are there offsetting expenses available,” said District 6 City Councilor Mike Rossi. “We all need to be accountable to the new city of Framingham. Let’s make Framingham affordable to all.”
Mayoral Staffs Across the Commonwealth
Some Commonwealth cities have senior advisors on the mayor’s staff and some don’t.
For example, the staff in the City of Braintree’s office includes a Mayor, a chief of staff, an assistant to the mayor, a services coordinator, and a grant writer. The Mayor is paid $125,000. The chief of staff about $120,000. The assistant is paid about $55,000. The services coordinator is paid about $60,000 and the grant writer about $75,000. And there is a director of finance at $130,000.
At this time, the City of Framingham has a Mayor (about $187,000) and a Chief Financial Officer (about $150,000). The City of Framingham also has an assistant CFO at just over $105,000 and the Chief Information Officer at about $84,000.
In the City of Weymouth, the Mayor earns about $110,000 and has two assistants and a secretary. The two assistants make about $60,000 each and the secretary just over $40,000. There is also a Chief Financial Officer at $110,000 a year. The City also has a Chief Information Officer at just under $108,000 and a Director of Administrative Services at $125,000.
In neighboring Marlborough, Mayor Arthur Vigeant makes $86,870, and has an executive secretary (about $55,000) and a executive aide (about $68,000).
In the City of Newton, which has a larger population than Framingham, the Mayor makes $125,000. Under former Mayor Setti Warren, the staff included a chief administrative officer at $137,000, a chief of staff/CFO position at $168,000, a citizen assitance officer at $71,000, a sustainability manager at $90,000, a special assistant for policy at $64,000, a senior financial analyst at $64,000, a performance manager at $81,000 and a community engagement person at $60,000.
In the City of Lawrence, the Mayor makes $100,285. He has a chief of staff at about $65,000, and 3 assistant positions at about $40,000 each.
In the City of Waltham, Mayor Jeannette McCarthy makes $132,059, and has a an executive assistant (about $68,000) , a full-time constituency services administrator (about $74,000), and a part-time constituency services administrator (about $38,000).