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Another View -- Chuck Douglas: City employees are the new royalty

June 28. 2017 10:03PM

Where does it pay to work in government?

It is clear that the big bucks are not in state government, but at the local level.

A Right-to-Know law request revealed that for 2016, the three largest cities had the best paid local employees.

The grand prize winner is Manchester, where 165 city employees have gross pay of more than $100,000, while only 103 state officials do so.

The airport director ($233,788,) public works director ($167,355,) and city solicitor ($161,133) lead the Manchester list.

More than 120 police and fire department employees exceed $100,000 in pay, without counting in tens of thousands in benefits.

For the record, the mayor is paid $72,000.

The average Manchester police officer made $81,179 in 2016, while the average lieutenant made $130,095, just shy of the governor’s salary of $135,592.

The average of all city salaries is $1,283 per week, compared to private sector employees at $1,027, more than $250 less per week.

Manchester school district employees also did well, with 21 topping $100,000 for administrators, and one teacher at $113,853.

Nashua weighs in at 41 employees, Portsmouth at 27, and Concord with 23 more than $100,000.

A lot of the numbers are bloated by overtime, which also runs up the number for pensions based on those high-gross wages.

The smaller cities clearly do not pay as well as the large ones. Keene has 13 city employees with gross wages above $100,000, and Dover has 18.

The smaller cities reflect a lower pay scale and thus there are only five in Lebanon and Rochester. Laconia has two, the city manager and police chief.

Only the city manager of Somersworth exceeds $100,000. Franklin, among all the New Hampshire cities, has no one paid at that level.

A look at state government reveals only 103 state officials listed in RSA 94 that exceed $100,000. A handful of physician positions go up into the $150,000 range, but heads of giant departments do not get paid as much as Manchester’s public works director or two police lieutenants.

This stark difference between state and local employees can be seen in the organization that provides health care coverage for municipal employees, HealthTrust.

Nine employees there exceed $100,000 per year. Its executive director last year earned $200,000, and two lawyers on the staff were paid $193,974 and $186,120.

That makes the attorney general’s salary of $128,260 completely out of whack with his responsibility, background, and a staff of more than 60 lawyers.

The inequality of government pay would have been accelerated if the 43 Manchester fire employees who are making more than $100,000 had received a 3 percent raise this year and next.

The raises would have also pushed at least five more firefighters over the century mark.

The cozy relationship between union support for aldermen and aldermanic support for massive pay increases will further stress the taxpayers.

At least they will know who their new royalty is. And they are not in Concord.

CORRECTION: The three salary statistics attributed to the New Hampshire Municipal Association  in the original version of this column  are in fact for the New Hampshire HealthTrust located in the same building.  The highest salary for the New Hampshire Municipal Association is over $140,000 for its Executive Director.   

Chuck Douglas is a former congressman and New Hampshire Supreme Court justice.

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