EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

October 10, 2012

Editorial: Squeezing seniors to keep the gravy train rolling

Haverhill has hit upon a plan to make certain there’s always plenty of feed in the public sector trough — indentured servitude.

That’s right. If you’re old and poor and can’t pay your city property tax bill, Haverhill is ready to put you to work. You’ll earn $8.50 an hour — that’s 50 whole cents more than the state minimum wage — for your labor, strictly voluntary, of course. You won’t see any of that money. It will be applied toward reducing your property tax bill — kind of like getting a paycheck with a 100-percent garnishment of wages.

Of course, next year, another property tax bill comes due — so, back to work, old-timer.

Next up, Haverhill converts its old shoe mills to Dickensian workhouses.

Mayor James “Ebenezer” Fiorentini thinks this is grand. In assembling his last budget, Fiorentini was handing out raises like he was tossing confetti from the roof of City Hall. The city’s $154 million budget increased spending by $5.1 million this year, with $4.5 million of that going to the schools. About half the city-side increase of $600,000 went to cover raises for city workers. There was a $30,000 pay raise for an assistant superintendent and a contract for principals that grants them bonuses for raising MCAS scores — in other words, for doing their jobs.

How a city facing the debt and other fiscal hurdles that Haverhill does hands out raises or bonuses to anyone is a very good question indeed.

Beyond the contracted raises are the extravagant salaries drawn by public employees — a superintendent and a public safety commissioner who each are approaching $200,000 a year down to ordinary firefighters who, with overtime, earn well over $100,000 a year.

With all the money needed to keep its public “servants” happy, it is little wonder the old and poor are asked to work to pay their share.

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