Boston’s City Council unanimously approved a pay increase that will boost their annual earnings by 20% starting with the new council term in 2024.
The bump will raise individual councilors’ salaries from $103,500 to $125,000 a year, an increase that is $10,000 more per year than what Mayor Michelle Wu had previously proposed.
If Wu approves the measure, the mayor’s office will also see a pay increase, bumping up whomever takes office in 2026 from $207,000 to $250,000 a year. That increase is $20,000 more than Wu’s original proposal.
Other top city positions, like Boston’s police and fire commissioners, the city attorney, auditor and chief information officer, will also see pay increases, but the council did not deviate from what the mayor asked for.
In a statement, a city spokesperson said Wu “looks forward to reviewing the amended ordinance approved by the Council in the coming days.”
The amended pay boost proposal followed a joint study from Deloitte and the city’s compensation advisory board that determined Boston should increase pay for public officials to remain competitive when seeking to recruit talent to top city positions.
Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune, chair of the council’s Government Operations Committee, led the effort to increase Wu’s proposal at a hearing on Monday. She said in a statement that the council supports all city workers receiving a pay increase “especially since they are required to live in this increasingly expensive city.”
“It is our collective responsibility to continue having conversations regarding compensation through the collective bargaining process and other mechanism so that our city workers can meet their basic needs without undue stress,” Louijeune said.
At the Monday hearing with Wu administration officials, Council President Ed Flynn asked what it would take for an average Bostonian to be able to afford a home in the city, a question that was met with silence and confusion.
Roxbury Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson pointed out that, as a single mother of two, she does not earn enough to be on par with Boston’s Area Median Income, a measure often used in housing calculations as a proxy for what home seekers can afford.
The AMI for a family of three, according to the Boston Planning and Development Agency, is $126,200.
“I don’t reach that AMI. So, basically, on my salary, I cannot afford to buy a home,” Fernandes Anderson said.
Other councilors pointed to a June report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies that found a person needs to earn more than $180,000 per year to afford a median-priced home in Greater Boston.
The council’s move also comes days after Wu donned a protective suit in East Boston to power-wash graffiti and put a call out for job applicants to fill vacancies within the city’s Public Works Department.
Those jobs, many of which come with a residency requirement, have starting annual salaries between $40,000 and $50,000. That, pointed out East Boston Councilor Gabriela Coletta, all but guarantees that workers would have to take on multiple jobs while working for the city in order to make ends meet.
“It was [so] incredibly hard for me to keep up with rent, student loans and other expenses that I had to pick up a waitressing shift during my time as a staffer to make ends meet,” Coletta said, referring to her time working under former East Boston Councilor Lydia Edwards.
“I think that is indicative of what the entire situation is across the city and, of course, now I find myself in this position where I’ve been here for five months and I’m already voting to increase my own salary,” she said, adding that she’d like to ensure all city workers get raises.
Others expressed similar concerns, but ultimately voted Wednesday in favor of increasing their pay beyond what the mayor proposed.