Is It Time For A Salaried City Council?

In lieu of salaries City Council members receive an annual stipend allocation to cover costs associated with constituent duties and expenses, a number that will increase to $1,500 per month, based on the latest budget proposal. Many councilors argue that the role of the 20-member legislative body is far more demanding and time consuming based on constituent needs and requests.

City Council President Aidee Nieves has suggested that it may be time to examine approval of salaries for council members, something that could require a City Charter amendment. The council has decided to take a deliberative approach to amending the charter with creation of a commission. Rather than bringing it to a vote this year it looks like a more complete review is set up for a vote in 2025.

A few weeks ago members of the Budget & Appropriations Committee engaged in a back and forth about increasing stipends. Minutes from the session follow:

There was a question asked about the Council Member’s stipends. Council Member Newton said that the City has a responsibility to their residents. He mentioned two recent deaths of residents in his District and said that he had received calls for financial assistances since the two young people did not have insurance. It is important to help the community. People need help 24/7. Raising the amount from $1,100 to $1,500 was fine with him. If a Council Member does not want to spend their funding, they can give it back. Discussion followed about the Council stipends, the travel allocation and the fact that the Council probably receives the lowest amount of stipends in the country.

Council Member Herron said that many of the Council Members can’t afford to attend the various NLC meetings. The Council Members have an obligation to be educated and they should bring back information to the Council. She said that she had learned a lot at NLC and CCM conferences. Council Members can choose not to attend the conferences, which is their choice. Some Council Members can pay out of pocket for the conferences and courses, but others can’t afford it. In New York, the Council Members receive $120,000 in salary along with admins and offices. Bridgeport is the largest City in the State and the Council Members have to ask repeatedly to attend conferences and have had issues with stipend cards. She said that the stipend card allows her to keep on learning.

Council Member McBride-Lee said that it was up to the individual Council Members as to how to use their stipend funding. She also mentioned the City wide contributions were good because it shows the people that they are getting something for all their taxes.



  1. I see the need for stipends although there have been abuses in the past. They should be directly related to constituents and not just a Councilperson salary/slush fund by another name..
    Very apprehensive of paid salaries. While I may be mistaken, it seems like an extremely large percentage of Council members are already working for the City or their family members are working for the City. Uncomfortable with another bite at the apple.

  2. Amending the charter that no one party will have more than 51 % majority on the city council or any board or commission. It’s also time that the largest city in the State, should have an Elected Board of Finance!

  3. Salaries for Council members? That is an old subject but turned down in the past. From a viewpoint of good governance, that exhibits OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT, and HONEST values in a community with only 15% of eligible voting, why spend more money? Needy Council members who would otherwise go to conferences, and then do what with the information? Will Board and Commission volunteer members then also look for stipends or salaries? Did the B&A Committee material include a jump from $11,000 to $21,600 ($1,800 per month) or an increase to $15,000 ($1,250 per month) (Lennie, please check the numbers above.)

    When Lennie Grimaldi asked me to write an article about STIPENDS two weeks ago, I accepted the assignment and divided a long essay into two parts for filing on two different days. I talked about the 60% increase in the past two years if the $15,000 annual limit is approved, but suggested two things to inform the taxpayer.
    1) Ask each conference attendee to write 50-100 words about the idea that they heard that they felt most appropriate to assist Bridgeport in growth of public service and education of youth. and 2) Request that the Finance Office that administers the card system that Councilpersons use, to become open to the public. Is there any reason why those expenses are “secret” though open to FOI? Isn’t a taxpayer looking at the spending records of the two Council persons in each district, a form of oversight, or sunlight, that should not be denied routinely as it is currently? Citizen oversight will raise questions from those who are not currently engaged in seeing something, and then saying something. That is better governance than we have today.

    When I wrote the previous essay, neither showed any comments responding to my observations. However, each of them had multiple ‘thumbs up’ to the articles themselves. In response to comments above, why are the Council Stipend guidelines not listed on the City Council portion of the City website? In the next City election, 18 months from now, will we see or hear any comments or criticisms in newsmedia, CH 12, or social media about stipends, or merely be left in “stipend silence”?

    To assist Councillor Herron, a plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds is called an Annual Operating Budget. She and 19 other elected officials will vote on the B&A recommendations , a plan, regarding what the Mayor’s office prepared. Planning to spend is a part of any budget. Does every Council person look at each Conference brochure ahead of time to find at least one they can use STIPEND funds for in order to learn something of City value? Likely so. Is that done by each of them? I don’t know, but there is no information that I can access for that answer, either. Time will tell.


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