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March 13, 2014

Peabody light commissioners want pay raise

PEABODY — The five elected members of the Peabody Light Commission are seeking a boost in pay from $4,000 to $5,100.

In a letter to the City Council, William Aylward, chairman of the Light Commission, said the work done by the commissioners is comparable to that done by School Committee members, who got a pay raise from $4,000 to $5,100 last year.

The light commissioners’ stipend hasn’t been raised since 1995.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s salary was raised last year to $105,000, but he declined any increase this year. As a result, the City Council, which has tied its salary to the mayor’s, did not get an increase either. The mayor declined to comment on the commission’s request except to say he would sign a pay boost if the council voted in favor of it.

According to the light plant’s website, commissioners meet once a month (except for July and August) with the plant manager. Aylward said they oversee the budget, approve major projects and set policy. Members also meet in subcommittees to assist the plant manager and work on “action plans” developed by the managers, he said.

The stipend is actually the least expensive part of commissioners’ compensation. They also are eligible for the same health insurance as full-time city employees, and all of the commissioners take it, which costs the city between $13,500 and $22,000 a year per commissioner, depending on which insurance plan they choose.

The city’s share for Aylward is $13,553, while he pays $2,391; for Thomas D’Amato $15,516, while he pays $ 2,738; for Thomas Paras, $21,924, while he pays $3,869; for Robert Wheatley, $15,203, while he pays $2,682; and for Charles Bonfanti, who is retired as a Light Plant employee, $15,516, while he pays $2,738.

Aylward noted that the Municipal Light Plant is autonomous, so a raise in the stipend would come from Light Plant revenues rather than city coffers. He also asked the council to “take whatever steps are necessary” to obtain a home rule petition from the Legislature allowing the pay to rise.

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