WITH ROUGHLY 15 percent of non-school municipal jobs in New Bedford vacant, Mayor Jon Mitchell is pushing to do away with residency requirements for most management positions.
New Bedford, like a number of cities and towns across the state, has residency requirements for municipal employees but they are not uniform. Most union city workers are required to live in New Bedford, and police and fire employees are required to live in the city for a minimum of 10 years.
Most management workers operate under a different system. Up until 2021, they were required to live in the city, but that requirement could be waived on a case-by-case basis with approval of the mayor’s office and the City Council.
In late 2020, the City Council approved an ordinance doing away with the waiver process and requiring most management employees who choose not to live within the city limits to take a 10 percent pay cut. Mitchell vetoed the ordinance, which he said was the first of its kind in the country, but the City Council overrode him by a 10-1 vote.
“A mandatory reduction in compensation from what is already an uncompetitive salary scale is hardly an enticement for applicants who have other professional options – as all highly qualified professionals do,” Mitchell wrote in his veto letter.
A press release issued Tuesday by Mitchell’s office said the concerns he raised in his veto letter have been validated, although the release was vague about what portion of the city’s open jobs have gone unfilled because of what city officials call the “10 percent pay penalty.” The press release said 200 of the city’s 1,300 non-school jobs are currently vacant.
The mayor is now seeking to repeal the 10 percent pay penalty and do away with the residency requirement entirely for all but seven management positions. He is also jousting with the City Council over a bid to revamp management pay scales to make New Bedford salaries more competitive and to give him more flexibility in adjusting salaries.
Mitchell indicated in the city’s press release that some city councilors have expressed concerns about the 10 percent pay penalty’s impact on hiring.
“Now they’ll have an opportunity to do something about it,” Mitchell said. “There can be no doubt that the 10 percent pay penalty for non-residents has made it more difficult for us to attract talented candidates, so I ask the members of the City Council to give this repeal measure their full consideration.”
Several members of the City Council who voted for the current pay-cut ordinance in 2020 did not return phone calls on Tuesday.
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