SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 25, 2013

Raises stir up negative feelings

Pay hikes allow members of school board to count service toward pensions

PEABODY — Some city councilors are acknowledging a backlash following their decision last week to raise salaries for city councilors and School Committee members, along with that of the mayor.

The vote, which boosted school board salaries from $4,000 per year to $5,100, put those officials in a position to receive pensions for the first time.

Council President Tom Gould said he wasn’t aware of this added benefit for School Committee members when he voted for the increase. But asked if knowing would have changed his vote, he said, “I don’t think it would have.”

Pension reform laws passed in 2009 bar School Committee members from counting their years of service toward public pensions if they earn $5,000 or less. The council’s vote puts them over that limit.

Gould conceded that not all his constituents are happy with the pay raises.

“There’s been a lot of negativity,” he said, something he said is understandable given the state of the economy. “We have to be sensitive. It’s a tough economy. ... I see people every day who are struggling.”

On the other hand, he said, school board members hadn’t had a raise since 1998. The mayor and city councilors last got pay raises in 2001.

Starting in March, the mayor’s salary will rise from nearly $95,000 to $105,000. School Committee raises will also begin in March.

City councilors’ pay raises won’t take effect until the new term in 2014. Thereafter, however, councilors will get automatic pay raises every time the mayor gets a raise, because they voted to set their own compensation at 9 percent of the mayor’s salary. Beginning in 2014, that works out to $9,450 per year, plus an $1,800 stipend for expenses.

City councilors and School Committee members in Peabody can also opt into the city’s health insurance program. School Committee members who enjoy this benefit include Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne, Jarrod Hochman, Dave McGeney and Brandi Carpenter. Councilors taking city health benefits are Michael Garabedian, Rico Mello, Barry Sinewitz and Gould.

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