The city of Methuen is currently facing a budget crisis primarily due to school system debt and newly negotiated police contracts.
Top police officials are poised to be the highest-paid officers in the state. According to the Boston Globe, a new contract will result in five Methuen police captains making an average of $432,295 annually. Seven lieutenants will make $269,823, and 12 sergeants will earn $160,018. City Police Chief Joseph Solomon will pull in $371,520.
These pay hikes resulted from new contracts negotiated by the previous mayor, Stephen Zanni. The agreements hike certain salaries to sky-high levels due to required pay percentage differentials among the various ranks. The percentages of their wages will now be derived from base pay plus ancillary benefits. Previously, raises only took base pay into account.
One benefit is from the “Quinn Bill”, under which an officer’s pay increases based on education levels he or she has attained. This can increase pay by 10-to-30 percent in addition to annual raises, which creates a “stacking” effect, where an officer’s pay increase can accelerate from 2 percent to nearly 206 percent because of the multiple types of benefits considered in the new formula.
According to MassOpenBooks, the highest paid state trooper earned $386,829 in 2017, which included his $161,688 buyout and $224,441 salary. There was no overtime included, as he retired early in the fiscal year. The next highest with overtime made $307,903, which included $83,295 in overtime. Once the new agreement goes into effect, top Methuen police officials will have much higher salaries than state police have, including overtime.
The contracts will put the city in serious fiscal danger. According to MassAnalysis, Methuen currently spends almost $12 million on police. In an interview with the Eagle-Tribune, current Mayor James Jajuga says the city cannot pay these raises in full.
Data from: MassAnalysis
MassAnalysis compares different towns and cities through various disciplines. Weymouth has similar population, crime rates, and police expenditures as Methuen. However, Weymouth police officers earn significantly less than their counterparts in Methuen, even though the Patriot Ledger reports that the top paid employees in Weymouth are police officers. The highest paid is a lieutenant who makes $223,064. Weymouth’s new budget includes no plans for a dramatic raise in salaries. One would think that two comparable municipalities would not have widely divergent police salaries.
According to The Boston Globe, Methuen’s top police officials will be the highest paid in the state next year, despite the city’s strained budget.
Contracts agreed upon by the previous mayor gave top officers raises the city cannot afford, and are recklessly putting the town in fiscal danger. Methuen is currently in compromise talks, but the previous administration failed to put the interest of the taxpayers first by fully understanding the contracts that they were agreeing to, so legally, the outcome seems to remain favorable to the police officials.