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Boston City Hall . (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)
Boston City Hall . (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

The office of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu reported the fewest department members and highest number of employees earning $100,000 or more since 2019, according to a five-year analysis conducted by the Herald.

Data from the city of Boston’s annual payroll report listed 66 employees in the mayor’s office in 2023, a decrease from 75 in 2022. The highest number of department employees reported in the analysis was 80 in 2021.

The 18 department employees earning at least $100,000 in total gross pay for the year increased from the 15 in 2022. The lowest number of such employees was 10 in 2021. Last year also saw the highest average gross employee pay, $83,030.31, over the years examined. The average gross pay for the 80 employees in 2021 was slightly less than $49,000.

According to the 2023 records, the bottom line figure for the Mayor’s office was $5.48 million.

Paul Craney, a spokesman for Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance questioned how vital the increased $100,000 annual earners are to serve the city of Boston.

“How many six-figure salaried ‘advisors,’ ‘deputies,’ and ‘special assistants’ does one mayor need,” Craney told the Herald. “Taxpayers are more than generous to give taxes to pay for important services and infrastructure needs but for the city of Boston, their taxpayers are starting to see a significant pattern of paying for their mayor’s political posse with generous salaried positions.”

A city spokesperson told the Herald that Wu’s office “has completed compensation analyses across more areas of the City workforce than before in order to fill key vacancies and ensure City compensation keeps up with the cost of living increases” over the past two years.

“Mayor’s office staff support areas of work across City government including early childhood, climate, and community safety,” the spokesperson continued.

According to the data, former Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s total gross pay in 2019 and 2020 was $199,000. When Wu first took office in 2021, her annual salary was $111,475. That figure climbed to $206,692 in 2022 and $207,000 in 2023, according to the figures.

The mayor’s salary is set through legislation by the city council each year.

Wu’s Chief of Operations, Dion Irish, ranks second in 2023 total pay with $187,500, followed by Chief Communications Officer Jessicah Pierre, Chief of Staff Tiffany Chu and Policy & Planning Chief Michael B. Firestone who each made $170,384, according to the data. Other members of the $100,000 earners club include deputy chiefs, several special assistants, three advisors, a strategy director and a technologist.

Boston University Associate Professor of Social Sciences and author Thomas Whalen said he thought the payroll would be higher, but admitted the salaries alone are not enough to accurately assess the payroll.

“It’s encouraging,” he said, “that it seems as if our mayor is not robbing the city blind. It seems well in line that Mayor Wu, at least from an administrative standpoint, seems to have things in line and competent.”

Whalen said a bigger concern of his is the city’s tax revenue from long-term leases signed in a pre-COVID world that are up for renewal soon.

“A lot of those companies now are not going to renew those leases and it is going to be a tremendous hit on the city’s revenue,” he said. “I wonder if, moving forward, the mayor’s office is going to be forced to do some austerity moves for that.”

Craney suggested a direct benefit to taxpayers’ pockets by eliminating several of the higher-paying positions and providing Bostonians with a “broad-based tax relief.”