By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher
Quick! Raise your hand if you have ever in your career received a 25% pay raise that wasn’t tied to a promotion? And … after just one year on the job!
Well, the good times are rolling for a couple of Peabody city employees, department heads who only recently ascended to their positions.
Calling it an issue of parity, Mayor Bettencourt actually got the City Council to approve hefty raises for the new building inspector and the director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. Each will see their annual pay go from about $84K to $100K.
No slight intended to those folks personally (after all, who among us would turn down an extra $16K in his/her paycheck?) But in these days when we the people are about to absorb a 17th straight year of seeing our property taxes increase, these raises are gross, grosser, grossest.
In just a few weeks, the Mayor will come before the City Council and ask for yet another property tax increase. He’ll say how it’s just going up a little on average. The cost of five pizzas a month? And don’t forget, we still have one of the lowest tax rates on the North Shore!
Woo hoo! I guess it doesn’t matter that — over the past 10 years — these so-called little increases have collectively raised the average Peabody property tax bill by more than 50%. And, there’s no end in sight to these increases as we continue to stumble and bumble when it comes to finding ways to increase our commercial tax base by bringing more attractive businesses to our ghost downtown, or our outdated Centennial Industrial Park.
Senior citizens are seeing their incomes go down while their taxes continue to increase, causing them to fear that they won’t be able to afford the homes they worked so hard for all of their lives. Young families, who scraped and saved to buy that starter home in Peabody, continue to feel squeezed by these annual increases too.
Look, I get it when taxes are raised because the city is struggling to pay for a much-needed new middle school, and that we can’t get out of a horrible decision to join and pay for the new mega voke in Middleton. I get it when the rising cost of healthcare, tied to collective bargaining agreements, makes it necessary to ask the taxpayers for more dough.
But raises like these are salt in our taxpaying open wounds!
It’s just another example, in a long list of them these days, of how our city’s government continues to not live within its means while passing the extra tax burden on to us.
I mean, it isn’t just these two recent inappropriate raises. Salary increases have been proposed at a fast and furious rate lately at City Hall. Do we really need multiple part-time city solicitors at individual salaries of more than $100K each? Many seemingly unnecessary positions have also been added to the payroll the past seven years at a time where we should be freezing government spending, and participating in some austerity.
Until we figure out how to raise more commercial tax revenues while not putting additional burdens on the resident taxpayers, there should be a hiring and raise increase freeze when it comes to any position in the city that doesn’t involve public safety (e.g., police and fire). Sorry, but when you are a public employee, living off taxpayer money, this is the bargain you just need to accept.
The one lone vote against the increase was Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw. Councilors Barry Sinewitz and Anne Manning-Martin couldn’t attend the meeting, but my hunch — based on their past actions in standing by the taxpayers — is that they would have objected too.
By the way? Because the council last year approved AUTOMATIC pay raises annually for all city employees not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, these two department heads will get another 2% increase come next July.
Think about that as you struggle each day in your private sector job where — when the business isn’t doing well — you get no raise at all.