By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — Mayor Stephen Zanni will hand out $1.8 million in employee raises for the fiscal year that begins tomorrow, and none are larger than in the Police Department — where patrolmen will receive an 11 percent pay bump.
The base salary for the majority of the city’s 64 patrolmen will rise by nearly $6,000, or from $51,925 to $57,817. It is the first cost-of-living increase for the Methuen Police Patrolmen’s Association in four years.
The raises were included in three-year contracts negotiated by Zanni and approved by the council last year. The contracts followed two consecutive years where most municipal employees agreed to 10 percent pay cuts to avoid layoffs and help city officials balance the budget during the recession. Those employees had their pay levels restored in 2011.
“It was a fair contract,” said Detective Tom McMenamon Jr., president of the patrolmen’s union. “It’s been awhile. Two years in a row we ended up giving back (10 percent) and the last two years we didn’t get anything.”
Municipal employees receive a number of pay-boosting incentives in addition to cost-of-living adjustments or COLA. Step raises are earned based on their years of experience. After reaching the maximum step, employees earn longevity raises.
Clothing and mileage allowances and overtime for public safety and public works employees also factor into employee pay, along with a number of additional perks for police — including holiday pay, night differential and education incentive pay.
Police Chief Joseph Solomon is slated to receive at least a $11,785 raise. Because he currently earns double the salary of the highest paid patrolman, Solomon’s base pay will also rise a minimum of 11 percent, or from $103,849 to $115,634.
The chief could be in line for even more money, however, based on a 2011 superior court decision calling for him to receive more than double the highest paid patrolman’s salary — as was the case under his previous employment contract.
As a result, city officials have budgeted $132,980 for Solomon’s salary this year. City Auditor Thomas Kelly said details of Solomon’s pay increase are still being worked out with the mayor.
McMenamon said the 11 percent raises for patrolmen reflect a 10 percent COLA. The additional 1 percent bump is the result of their uniform-cleaning stipends being rolled into their base pay, he said.
“Everything that we got in this contract mimics what the superior officers got last year,” said McMenamon. “There’s nothing different. Everything they got, we got, just a year later.”
Lt. Frank Korn, superior officers’ union president, could not be reached for comment for this story.
Methuen’s four police captains will earn $5,245.76 or 5.4 percent raises in fiscal year 2014, which begins tomorrow and runs until June 30, 2014. As a result, their base pay will jump from $97,570 to $102,816.
Also receiving 5.4 percent COLAs are the Police Department’s seven lieutenants and 12 sergeants. Base pay for lieutenants will increase from $84,223 to $88,759. Sergeants will earn $76,640, up from $72,716.