Motion approved: Council stipends double in Barrington

Council president will receive $3K, other members $2K

By Josh Bickford
Posted 5/26/23

On a night when voters determined a total town budget of more than $91 million, a motion for just $5,000 led to a spirited debate.  

The resolution, part of the financial town meeting on …

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Motion approved: Council stipends double in Barrington

Council president will receive $3K, other members $2K


On a night when voters determined a total town budget of more than $91 million, a motion for just $5,000 led to a spirited debate. 

The resolution, part of the financial town meeting on Wednesday, May 24, asked taxpayers to approve Barrington Town Council stipend raises — $1,000 more for each of the five Councilors. 

The majority of current Town Council members voiced their support for the increase, while former members of the Council were divided on the issue. Kate Weymouth and Michael Carroll endorsed the $5,000 expenditure. Ann Strong and Mary Alyce Gasbarro opposed the motion. 

In the end, taxpayers approved the request. 

Early in the discussion, Council member Braxton Cloutier offered some reasons for the raise. Cloutier said the increase would allow more people to serve and remove economic barriers that some residents may face. He also said Barrington ranks close to the bottom in Rhode Island when it comes to Town Council stipends. 

It was earlier reported that the $1,000 stipends for Barrington Councilors ($2,000 for the Council President) rank 38 or 39 in the state and that the proposed $5,000 increase would push the town’s rank to 30. Barrington Committee on Appropriations member Bill DeWitt opposed the increase, stating earlier that in a year when officials had already extended raises of about 8 percent to police officers and firefighters, he thought it was excessive to extend $1,000 raises to Council members. 

During the FTM, Council President Carl Kustell said he and his colleagues spend many hours doing Council work — he said they often attend three to four meetings a week. Kustell also said some residents may not run for Council because they cannot afford to pay for child care during meetings. 

Former Barrington School Committee member Erika Sevetson made a pitch for the School Committee — she said members “make peanuts” and do at least as much work as Town Council members. 

Former Council member Weymouth said she had proposed stipend increases while she was on the Council only to have them voted down by her then-colleagues. Weymouth said a former town manager increased the Council stipends during Weymouth’s final year on the Council.

Geoff Grove, a former member of the Committee on Appropriations, was the first to speak against the increased stipends. Grove said Council members should want to volunteer — the stipend should not be compensation for their time. Grove said the increased stipends have only been considered in the last 10 years when Councilors began considering the position as a job. 

This is not their job and it shouldn’t be, Grove said. He asked voters to not change the Council position from volunteerism to careerism. 

Former Town Council member Ann Strong said she had also served on the Planning Board and Conservation Commission. She said those positions are volunteer — they are not jobs. 

“If you think of this as a career, you’re in the wrong place,” Strong said. 

Former Council President Michael Carroll said he respectfully disagreed with Strong and Grove. He said the change was needed to create better access to the Council for all. He offered the example of a single parent who might be interested in serving on the Council — he said the stipend would probably not be enough money to cover the child care costs for meetings. Carroll also reminded voters that the increase would still leave Barrington ranked near the bottom in Rhode Island. 

Former Council President Mary Alyce Gasbarro pushed back against stipend increase. She said that when she was on the Council, members viewed the position as a service to the town. She said Councilors never worried about the stipend. She gave most of hers to charity, she said. 

Gasbarro cautioned that current Council members should not be serving for the money.

Kate Berard, a current member of the Council, said the stipend covers the cost of making copies of Council documents and childcare. She said she did not join the Council as a career. Berard also said a $2,000 stipend would not cover the cost of gas to and from Council meetings.

Liana Cassar, a former District 66 representative, said it was OK for someone to have a career in politics. Scott Douglas, husband of School Committee member Megan Douglas, said the stipend is a gesture of respect to those who serve. And Council member Rob Humm said the stipend increase was all about creating more opportunities for others to serve in the future. 

When the motion was put to a voice vote, it passed. 

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