Top city officials give back 5% COLAs

Mayor Nutter with Clay Armbrister, chief of staff
Annual cost-of-living-adjustments, or COLAs, are due to the mayor, City Council, and row officers on June 30 under the 2003 law that set current salaries.

Mayor Nutter will give back his 5.13 percent increase, as will 19 cabinet members and commissioners who are scheduled for the increase, a spokesman said yesterday.

Nutter slashed his $186,044 salary 10 percent in November in announcing budget cuts to deal with the worsening financial crisis. The COLA amount is $9,544, for a total giveback of about $28,000. Nutter is also taking a 2 percent cut in the form of a one-week furlough this year - five unpaid vacation days that he'll most likely work through.

Council Majority Whip Darrell Clarke said he was waiting for a chance next week to meet with Council President Anna C. Verna, who has been out since her husband, Severino, died June 13.

The Nutter administration has asked the four unions representing the city's more than 20,000 blue- and white-collar workers, whose contracts expire Tuesday, to accept four-year contracts with no raises. In that light, Clarke said, it may be difficult for Council members to accept an increase in their $112,233 salaries.

"If the municipal workers don't get a raise, we'd have to consider doing something different," he said.

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez said she could not see Council taking a raise of any kind "given the economic times."

"I'm clear that it would be inappropriate for City Council, at this time, to take the increase," she said.

How that would work is unclear. Council established the automatic annual raise in 2003, when it overrode a veto by Mayor John F. Street and upped Council salaries from $85,339 to $98,000.

The COLA is based on the current Consumer Price Index, which came in at 5.13 percent this year, Finance Director Rob Dubow said. Last year it was 1.57 percent.

That 2003 ordinance also raised all other elected officials salaries, including the mayor's, which rose from $144,009 to $165,000.

Most important, Clarke said, is that whatever Council's 17 members decide, they act as one. He said he did not like it this year when eight members gave back 5 percent of their salary - Clarke was not one of them - and the others were criticized in the press.

"We're going to have a conversation, because whatever we do, we should all do the same," Clarke said.