PEABODY — The city’s light commissioners, who had sought a pay raise that would make them eligible for public pensions, are now abandoning that effort.
Commission chairman Bill Aylward said they decided at a board meeting Thursday to rescind their request to the City Council for a raise in their stipends from $4,100 to $5,000. The increase also would have needed approval from state lawmakers. Aylward notified the city clerk’s office yesterday and said councilors would be notified as well.
He declined to comment further on the issue, but acknowledged they had not researched what commissioners in other communities are paid.
“I don’t think anyone had a problem with them getting something; I think it was just a problem with the way they presented it,” said City Councilor Barry Osborne. He said commissioners just laid out what they wanted in their initial letter to councilors, instead of approaching it as a discussion.
Osborne had asked to delay a decision on the matter last month so City Clerk Tim Spanos could research what other commissioners earn. He and other councilors also indicated at the time they’d be comfortable with a smaller increase.
The issue sparked some controversy over the past few months. On one hand, some were critical that the municipal light commissioners would become eligible for public pensions, which in turn would make them eligible for retiree health benefits. On the other hand, others pointed out that other elected officials just got a pay raise, which allowed school board members to become eligible for pensions.
As elected officials, commissioners are eligible for city health insurance, which is worth $13,000 to $22,000, depending on the plan chosen. They all take the benefit, although Charles Bonfanti is a retired light plant employee and receives benefits that way.
While the light commissioners are paid less for their public service than city councilors and School Committee members, Peabody commissioners do appear to earn more than many of their peers across the state. According to information obtained from other municipal utilities, commissioners’ compensation ranges from $0 to $6,000 in one case.