March 2, 2011

Londonderry officials: We get what we pay for

Londonderry School Board and Town Council members say the superintendent and town manager
are paid well — and are worth every penny.
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- While 21 municipal and school district employees earned more than $100,000 last year, local officials say it’s those numbers that allow Londonderry to stay competitive.“We try not to be the highest paid and not the lowest paid,” said Town Councilor Tom Dolan. “We just want to be competitive with our benchmark communities so we can attract good, high-quality people, but not over-pay and put additional stress on the taxpayer.”Londonderry’s top-earner last year was Town Manager David Caron, who took home $134,253 and a $6,450 vehicle allowance, according to a regional review of municipal and school district salaries.
His base salary includes an $8,000 buyout for not participating in the town’s health insurance, according to Assistant Town Manager Susan Hickey, who earned $125,237 last year.
Caron’s total compensation exceeds that of managers in surrounding towns studied, but Town Council
 Chairman Paul DiMarco said Caron, an eight-year town employee, is well worth his wage.
“I believe he is probably one of the top 10 managers in the state of New Hampshire, and we get what we pay for,” DiMarco said.
School Board member Steve Young said the same goes for Superintendent Nathan Greenberg, who, at $131,261, made more than his counterparts in
 Derry, Salem and Merrimack last year. Greenberg has held his post for 11 years.
“I think that our superintendent is probably underpaid compared to what he delivers to the district,” said School Board member Steve Young. “Nate has his faults, and his biggest is that you can’t get the guy to take a day off.”
Seven Londonderry police sergeants also made more than $100,000 last
 year, each earning thousands above their base pay on overtime and detail assignments.

In one example, Sgt. Kevin Cavallaro earned $120,718 last year, with $33,184 in overtime pay and $11,074 for outside details, which are reimbursed by third-party customers. Cavallaro’s base pay was $76,459.
Altogether, Londonderry spent about $609,000 in police overtime. In Derry, with a population of about 34,000 people, officers earned $542,000 in overtime. Salem spent about $1 million in officer overtime, with an estimated population of 30,000.
Londonderry police Chief William Hart, who took home $107,386 last year, said overtime hours are primarily used to maintain minimum staffing during vacancies and to send officers to assist with court cases.
“We work with the town leaders to budget a line item for overtime and then, keeping always paramount the safety and security of the citizens of the community, we allocate as needed,” said Hart.
By union contracts, Hart said, court appearances require a minimum of four hours of overtime pay.
“Obviously, we feel it important to manage those dollars as
 effectively as we can on behalf of the residents, so we try to solve as many court cases as we can before we get there, keeping justice in mind,” Hart said.
Councilor Sean O’Keefe said he attributes some overtime spending to recently limited staffing increases.
“We pretty much have held the line on hiring now, not adding a lot of people and having a pretty flat turnover other than retirements,” O’Keefe said. “I think when that happens you see more employees working more because we’re not filling jobs.”
O’Keefe said that he expects future union negotiations to help to bring down personnel costs in many departments.
“We’ve been working as a council to try to get some better agreements for the taxpayers and the unions have been working with us,” O’Keefe said. “It may be not as fast as we’d like, but it’s trending in the right direction. It’s really hard to change a mindset, especially when they’re used to getting certain things.”
Resident Reed Clark, treasurer of the Londonderry Taxpayers Association, said he thinks the town’s executives union might push department head salaries higher than in other towns.
In Derry, for example, senior staff employment is governed by a personnel policy as opposed to a union contract.
“It’s difficult to compare the two salaries because when one is unionized they can fight harder for their monies,” he said. “The unions here will never let (salaries) go down, so it will always be on a higher scale.”
Caron said Londonderry has only six employees working without union representation, but he said he sees little difference in the compensation levels of unionized employees and their non-union counterparts.
“The only thing is that if they’re represented and then you have some significant periods
 of economic distress like we’re probably going through now, obviously you just cannot unilaterally decide to adjust compensation and benefi t structure,” Caron said. “You have to follow what’s been negotiated.”
Budget Committee Vice Chairman Todd Joncas said he thinks Londonderry salaries are about where they should be.
“Everybody is feeling the economic pinch these past few years and with the lag effect on the home front, I think everybody’s very sensitized to what everything costs,” said Joncas. “But I think in all fairness, the town and the school district have done a very good job, all things considered.”

No comments:

Post a Comment