Comparing Worcester’s City Council to Other Cities

Worcester is the second largest city in Massachusetts and has the third largest municipal budget in the state. When compared to the other cities in the top 10 largest cities in the state, Worcester City Council is under-funded, understaffed, and underpaid.

Residents often express outrage whenever politicians or their operations receive funding, and understandably so. Worcester residents, on average, are not wealthy. Seeing people in positions of power consume more resources is frustrating for many.

However, a comparison of the top 10 most populous cities in our state shows that Worcester’s legislative branch compares poorly in resources available to it.

City Total budget City Council
% of Budget Council
Population Pop Per District Budget Year Council
Worcester $893,002,939 $828,743 0.09% 5 5 of 11 206,242 41,248 FY 2025 $34,639
Boston $4,636,140,000 $8,166,080 0.18% 119 9 of 13 675,647 75,072 FY 2025 $120,000
Springfield $877,912,906 $543,519 0.06% 3 8 of 13 155,931 19,491 FY 2024 $28,000
Cambridge $955,584,350 $2,817,000 0.29% 2 0 of 9 118,403 0 FY 2025 $99,571
Lowell $549,935,365 $363,242 0.07% 0 8 of 11 115,554 14,444 FY 2024 $25,000
Brockton $557,933,264 $832,310 0.15% 4 7 of 11 105,579 15,083 FY 2024 $30,000
Quincy $405,600,000 $494,876 0.12% 3 6 of 9 101,606 16,934 FY 2024 $29,700
Lynn $486,643,836 $498,322 0.10% 2 7 of 11 101,118 14,445 FY 2024 $25,000
New Bedford $416,498,099 $695,160 0.17% 5 6 of 11 100,970 16,828 FY 2024 $28,105
Fall River $408,410,247 $342,803 0.08% 1 0 of 9 93,885 0 FY 2024 $16,091

Worcester’s Huge Districts Reduce the Power of Your Vote

The number of residents in each of Worcester’s five city council districts is the second highest in the state, as would be expected from the second largest city. However, Worcester’s districts are not proportional to other cities.

Boston’s population of over 675,000 is 228% larger than Worcester’s 206,000. Yet Boston’s nine district councilors represent about 75,000 residents, just 82% more than Worcester, where district councilors represent about 41,000 residents.

Springfield’s population of about 156,000 is 28% smaller than Worcester. Its district councilors represent less than 20,000 residents, 53% less than district councilors in Worcester.

The current Worcester city charter, and how it constructs the city council, causes this disparity.

Two of the top 10 largest cities by population in Massachusetts, Cambridge and Fall River, have only at-large councilors, which are elected by the total population of the city. Of the other eight, Worcester has the highest number of at-large councilors (6) and the fewest number of district councilors (5). Worcester is also the only of the eight that have more at-large councilors than districts.

Only one, New Befdord, has five councilors at-large, one less than Worcester. Quincy also has six district councilors, but it only elects three at large, as it has nine councilors total. Boston and Springfield both have 13 total councilors, two more than Worcester, with nine and eight districts, respectively.

The oversized districts in Worcester dilute the power of each individual voters to elect the councilor that represents their district.

The Painful Job of a Worcester District Councilor

For most residents, when they need to reach out to an elected representative, their first call is to their district councilor. As the primary point of contact for constituents, districts of over 41,000 residents generate an overwhelming number of calls and emails.

Each Worcester City Councilor will earn less than $35,000 in 2024 for their service. While this is a significant second income, it is just above per capita income (calculated by taking the total income earned by all residents and dividing it by the total population in the city) and over $10,000 less than per capita income in Worcester County. Councilors are considered part-time workers.

The responsibilities of the position are not part time. One former Worcester City Councilor, who worked full-time while serving as a district councilor, told us they couldn’t have possibly answered all the calls and emails he received from constituents while serving. There just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Beyond service to constituents, councilors are also required to attend city council meetings, sub-committee meetings, and many other community meetings and events.

The Equity Issue

The rate of pay combined with the time commitment and flexibility of schedule required to be a district city councilor restricts who can run for one of the five district city councilor seats in Worcester.

A district councilor must have a full-time job with the flexibility to enable the individual to attend all the required meetings and events and do the work of providing constituent services. This favors business owners, retirees, or other people with the financial means and time flexibility to run. It is extremely difficult for someone whose job requires they work 9 to 5 every day to serve.

It is also difficult for someone who works weekends to serve. Worcester City Councilors find out what is on the city council agenda on Friday for its Tuesday meetings. When that agenda has multiple complex issues, councilors have just a few days to research and try to understand those issues.

No one should have to be able to afford to serve as a Worcester City Councilor.

Councilors are Mostly on Their Own

Worcester is one of just three cities in Massachusetts with an appointed city manager and an elected mayor. In Worcester, the mayor is one of 11 city councilors and the chairperson of the city council.

Worcester City Council has five total support staff for 11 councilors. Two of those are assigned to the mayor, exclusively. That leaves three people to support 10 city councilors, and as of early May 2024, the third person hadn’t been hired yet.

New Bedford, like Worcester, has 11 councilors. Yet that city has a population 51% less than Worcester, and has districts of less than 17,000, which is 77% smaller than Worcester. It has a council support staff of five. New Bedford also allocates 0.17% of its total budget to city council, which is 88% more than Worcester’s 0.09%.

The Quincy City Council has a support staff of three for its nine councilors, the same number Worcester City Council has to support 10 councilors. Though the population of Quincy (102,000) is 51% lower than Worcester, and districts in Quincy (17,000) are 77% less than districts in Worcester, Quincy allocates 0.12% of its budget to its council, 33% more than Worcester’s 0.09%.

Boston’s 13 city councilors are full time, with a salary half that of the Mayor of Boston. This year, Boston City Councilors will earn $120,000. Boston City Council also has a team of 117 people. While Boston is much bigger than Worcester, the Boston City Council receives 0.18% of its budget, 100% more than Worcester.

Cambridge City Councilors have a support staff of just two, but its councilors are full time, earning nearly $100,000 per year. Its city council is allocated 0.29% of the City of Cambridge budget, 222% more than Worcester.

Of the top 10 cities by population in Massachusetts, only Springfield, Lowell, and Fall River provide a smaller portion of their budget to their council than Worcester. Boston, Cambridge, Brockton, Quincy, Lynn, and New Bedford all provide more resources to their councils. Each one of those cities has more district councilors than Worcester.

Worcester Deserves Better

According to the 2020 US Census, Worcester was the fastest growing city in New England from 2010 to 2020. It is the only city in Massachusetts, except Boston, which has over 200,000 residents. Former City Manager Ed Augustus, who served until the end of May 2022, frequently talked about developing Worcester into a “world-class city.”

A world-class city has a governing system that represents its residents.

City Councilors in Worcester are the only municipal representation elected by voters. They are the link between the people of the city and its government. They should have the funding, support, and compensation to effectively represent their constituents.


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