Portland City Manager Jon Jennings is expected to receive a 12 percent raise Monday, bringing his annual salary to $166,500.

Jennings’ compensation package will continue to include a $500-a-month vehicle allowance and an annual retirement contribution of 12 percent of his salary, or nearly $20,000 after the raise, in addition to his primary retirement plan.

The increase of nearly $18,500, which is more than the annual pay of someone working full time at the current state minimum wage of $7.50 an hour, is a vote of confidence for Jennings, who has been battling Mayor Ethan Strimling over the past year.

The City Council will vote on the raise Monday. It would be retroactive to July 13, the one-year anniversary of when he was hired and given a three-year contract with a base salary of $148,064 a year.

“I’m very pleased the council has shown so much confidence in me with the decision to raise my annual salary,” Jennings said in an interview. “While I appreciate what the council has done for me, I believe there’s a lot more work to be done for nonunion staff.”

Jennings said the current budget includes a $110,000 line item to conduct a nonunion wage study. He hopes the council will support raises for the 175 nonunion employees – department heads and mid-level managers – who have only received cost-of-living increases in recent years.

“Take someone like (Police Chief) Mike Sauschuck – he easily could be making a lot more somewhere else,” Jennings said. The police chief currently makes $116,500 a year.

The proposed raise for the city manager follows a two-hour performance review conducted Dec. 2 by the City Council. Although details of that review are confidential, there are signs that much of the conversation dealt with the separation of powers between the professional manager and the popularly elected mayor.

MAYOR PRAISES WORK DESPITE CLASHES

According to internal documents obtained through a public records request by the Portland Press Herald, Jennings and Strimling have been clashing over the past year about their interpretation of the City Charter, which outlines the powers and duties of both positions.

Strimling has complained that Jennings has denied him direct access to department heads, while Jennings has defended his firewall between city staff and elected leaders.

Both the city attorney and an outside legal opinion, which cost more than $21,000, supported Jennings’ reading of the charter. The attorneys concluded that the system of government approved by voters in 2010 still requires the mayor, as well as city councilors, to funnel all requests for information through the manager, who is charged with running the daily operations of the city, including directing city staff.

Strimling also has clashed with fellow councilors, who accuse him of using the bully pulpit to enact his policies rather than working with the councilors in committee.

Despite his differences with Jennings, Strimling supports the proposed salary increase.

“I think he’s doing a really good job of implementing the council’s policies and responding to constituents,” Strimling said. “He’s got the trains running on time at City Hall. I think he’s made a real difference.”

City Councilor Justin Costa, who leads the council’s Nominations and Legislative Committee that oversees the review process, highlighted the fact that Jennings and his team successfully renegotiated a solid waste contract, saving the city $1 million a year.

“I think there’s a general recognition amongst the council that Jon is doing a very good job and, frankly, we’ve had a great bargain for the last year,” Costa said. “In general, people feel that operationally we’re in a better place. We’re more responsive and doing the basics of city government.”

COMPARING PAY FOR OTHER TOP JOBS

The proposed raise has three parts, according to a memo to the council from Gina Tapp, the city’s human resources director. Jennings would receive a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment, 5 percent merit raise and 5 percent “market increase.”

Tapp noted that Deputy City Manager Anita LaChance makes $143,560, which is only 3.2 percent less than Jennings’ initial salary, while Portland School Superintendent Xavier Botana earns $148,000. The CEO of the waste management firm ecomaine earns $167,000, and the city manager in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, makes $163,800 along with other incentives, including a $5,000 retention bonus.

Elsewhere in New England, the town manager of Framingham, Massachusetts, a city of roughly 68,000 people, makes nearly $187,640 and drives a city-owned vehicle, and in West Hartford, Connecticut, a city of 63,000 residents, the manager makes $160,000 and drives a city-owned vehicle, officials in those towns said.

HIGHEST-PAID CITY MANAGER IN MAINE

However, even at his previous salary, Jennings earned more than other managers in Maine. The memo shows that Bangor’s manager earns $131,000, Lewiston’s makes nearly $125,000 and managers in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth each earn about $123,000.

“The city of Portland city manager position is very different from any other city manager position in the state of Maine, based on size and scope alone,” Tapp said. “It has the added municipal operations of a long-term care facility and an international jetport, which is very unique for any city.”

Portland, which has nearly 67,000 residents, has a $236 million budget, 1,283 employees and a municipal payroll of $72.5 million.

Jennings is one of three employees who report directly to the City Council.

Both City Clerk Katherine Jones and Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta already have received substantial raises. Jones received a 17 percent raise, or nearly $14,000, bringing her salary to $92,960, while West-Chuhta received an 11 percent raise, or nearly $13,400, bringing her salary to $131,250.