NORTH SMITHFIELD – Both the Budget Committee and Town Administrator Gary Ezovski have recommended a significant increase in salary for the town’s top office, a figure the Town Council will have to vote on when it takes up the municipal budget next month.

The $75,000 salary would increase to $90,000, according to preliminary budget talks. Officials say the increase is aimed at attracting top-level talent for the role.

Ezovski, who will complete his second term as administrator this year, will not be seeking a third term. The administrator first took office following a landslide victory in 2016 over opponent Robert Boucher.  In 2018, he ran unopposed for the position.

But from the start, the administrator has said he had no interest in a third term, and Ezovski has maintained the position throughout this year’s budget talks.

“Two terms was my self-imposed limit,” Ezovski told NRI NOW this week. “Though I haven’t done an exhaustive records review, I believe when my term ends late this year, I will be the oldest person, by a significant margin to have served in this office.”

Ezovski said that a recent family health matter has helped to affirm the decision.

He has recommended a rate increase, however, for his successor, which would take effect after the November election, once a new administrator is sworn in.

“My recommendation to increase the salary to $90,000 per year is what I think should be just a first step in an increase that is long overdue,” Ezovski said.

The administrator points to a municipal salary survey by the Rhode Island Department of Revenue in 2018, which shows that North Smithfield has lagged well behind its neighbors in terms of salaries for a chief executive officer.

That year, Burrillville paid $122,170 for the town manager’s office and Cumberland paid $90,500. Lincoln paid the town administrator $87,291 and Smithfield paid $115,000.

In fact, the 39-town survey showed that only two municipalities in Rhode Island paid a figure less than North Smithfield’s $75,000: Central Falls at $72,760 and West Greenwich at $66,542.

And thanks to a charter revision, it may be more important than ever before that North Smithfield attract a well-qualified candidate for the role. In 2018, voters approved a change increasing the duration of the term from two years to four.

In a virtual Town Council meeting this week, resident Mike Clifford asked the board to discuss and publicize the issue prior to the final budget vote in June, noting that the deadline to declare candidacy in Rhode Island is also the end of June.

“It’s a substantial increase,” said Clifford, pointing out that in 2018, the $1,000 raise passed for North Smithfield councilors wasn’t publicized until it was too late for candidates to declare they wanted to run for office. “It will be too little, too late.”

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