LYNN — Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi, citing the city’s current financial state, expressed disappointment in the City Council for failing to “rein in out-of-control spending” by opting not to lower the salary of a future personnel director more than the panel chose on Tuesday night.
But City Council President Darren Cyr argued the higher salary was necessary to attract the most qualified candidate who will help handle union contract negotiations, which city officials believe will have a major impact on closing its projected $5 million budget gap for fiscal year 2020. About a dozen union contracts have to be settled before the fiscal year ends on June 30 and a budget can be set.
“There’s no doubt that the city is in financial distress and that we should try to do everything we can to save money on every level,” Cyr said. “Right now we’re in the middle of 12 contracts that need to be negotiated.
“Whoever that person is, I want to feel comfortable that they’re qualified and can negotiate the contracts on behalf of the city and save money with insurance, because that’s where our problem lies right now. I agree with trying to find ways to save money. I just don’t think this is the spot to do it in.”
The City Council voted against the recommendation of its Ordinance and Rules Subcommittee, chaired by Lozzi, which met earlier in the night.
The subcommittee by a 3 to 1 vote (Councilor at-Large Brian LaPierre voted no) had recommended a personnel director be hired as a Level 2 position, which would have been lowered from its current Level 1-plus position for a difference in base salary of approximately $25,000.
But the City Council voted 9-2 — Lozzi and Ward 2 Councilor Rick Starbard voted no — to hire the personnel director as a Level 1 position, which would still be lowered from its current Level 1-plus position for a difference in base salary of approximately $15,000.
“I’m very disappointed in this council,” Lozzi said. “This was an opportunity for this Council to take advantage of what I’ve heard over the years — 16 years as a councilor — taxpayers and voters complaining about runaway salaries in the city of Lynn, that we pay more for our department heads than any surrounding community.
“I think it’s outrageous that we’re becoming part of this problem … Here was an opportunity for this Council to rein in out-of-control spending and we’re choosing to pay the higher salary, higher than what the previous personnel director was receiving, and I think that’s not wise going into a difficult fiscal year.”
Although base salary would be lowered with reducing from a Level 1-plus to a Level 1, a new personnel director would still be making more than the previous personnel director, Joseph Driscoll, who retired in October when he was making $103,000.
Driscoll did not have a college degree and the posting calls for candidates to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, which adds an educational incentive of 20 percent on top of the base salary. The desired master’s or law degree adds 25 percent onto the base.
A Level 1 personnel director would make a base salary of $87,596, while a Level 2 would have been approximately $10,000 less. With a bachelor’s degree, that Level 1 pay bumps to $105,115 while the desired master’s degree makes it $109,495. If a new hire has 15 years of government service, that adds another 10 percent on top of the base salary, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney.
Before 2007, the personnel director was a Level 1 position. That year, the personnel director received a $10,000 raise because approximately 150 custodians were transferred from the school department to the Inspectional Services Department.
With retirements, there are now fewer than 50 custodians, which means the workload has decreased for the position. Another reason for the raise was city officials felt since Driscoll didn’t have a college degree, he was being shortchanged with salary in comparison to other department heads with degrees.
If the position were not downgraded from a Level 1-plus position by the Council, a director with a master’s or law degree would make $129,594.
A new personnel director is expected to be hired early this year. There is no acting director. Duties for the position have been assigned to the department’s administrative assistant Maria Foglietta Bray, City Solicitor George Markopoulos and Assistant City Solicitors Richard Vitali and Lamanna.
The personnel department coordinates the hiring for the city of Lynn.
The incoming director is expected to assume more responsibilities within months of being hired. Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management from the University of Massachusetts Boston is recommending that the department be converted to a Human Resources Department, according to the City Council.