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April 30, 2014

Peabody council holds off on raises for light commissioners

PEABODY — City councilors want to know what other municipal light commissioners in the state earn before deciding how much of a raise Peabody’s five elected commissioners should get.

“I’m not against giving them something, but I don’t know if this is the time to give them [25] percent,” said Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne last night as councilors discussed the matter. “I want to know what other commissioners make.”

City commissioners are asking the council to approve a home rule petition request to state lawmakers to bump their annual stipends from $4,000 to $5,100. If the measure passes, light commissioners would also be eligible for public pensions.

Osborne said the municipal utility and the board of commissioners were created to keep electric rates in the city low, which they have, but the raise requested didn’t seem to be in line with that goal. He also wondered if commissioners received other benefits, expense accounts or travel reimbursements.

Finance Committee Chairman Dave Gravel noted commissioners, as elected officials, are eligible for the city’s health insurance. All five commissioners take the benefit.

Councilor-at-Large Tom Gould said he was comfortable with a 2- to 3-percent increase, which is standard in corporate America.

On the other hand, Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin, who didn’t support any raise, asked her colleagues to at least cap the amount at $4,999. The threshold for becoming eligible for a pension is $5,000.

Commissioners have argued the requested increase is only fair — it’s equal to what the School Committee received last year when the council approved raises for itself, the mayor and the school board. And it’s been 19 years since the last raise.

Councilor-at-Large Mike Garabedian brought up that point last night. He said he supported a raise, but indicated Gould’s suggestion might be a fair compromise.

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