, Salem, MA

Local News

February 25, 2013

Raises stir up negative feelings

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


The cost to the city of these health benefits varies, depending on the plan chosen, from more than $14,000 per year to more than $20,000 per year.

City Councilor Anne Manning-Martin voted against all the pay raises, citing the perilous economy. She also indicates that she’s since tracked some public resistance to the increases.

Manning-Martin praised the hard work of the school board, where she once served, but said she hadn’t considered that the pay raise would make it possible for the members to use their years of service toward public pensions. If she had, she would have brought it up as an issue.

“I can’t speak for the members who voted in favor of the pay raise,” she said. “I would guess they didn’t think of it.”

Councilor David Gravel explained that he voted to increase the mayor’s salary, but against the package that would have boosted compensation for both the council and the school board.

“I thought we were fairly paid,” he said. Formerly a member of the School Committee, Gravel said he took city health insurance then but decided not to when he was elected to the City Council.

“I saw what that costs (to the city),” he said. “That’s a lot of money. ... When you’re asking taxpayers to pay tax increases, it’s hard to say that you’ll take city health care.”

As for his new pay increase, Gravel is promising to donate it to charity.

The pensions available to both councilors and school board members would not be large. Yet, thanks to a quirk in state law, an elected official of long service who gains a full-time city job can then apply for a pension offering compensation based not on the relatively small amounts paid to part-time elected officials, but on the full-time salary paid during those final years.

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