Government-sanctioned pay inequality

A right-to-know law request by NH Union Leader revealed that, for 2016, the three largest cities had the best paid government employees.

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

The Manchester airport director ($233,788), public works director ($167,355) and city solicitor ($161,133) lead the list. Over 120 police and fire department employees exceed $100,000 in pay without counting the tens of thousands in additional benefits. For the record, the mayor is paid only $72,000.

The average Manchester police officer made $81,179 in 2016 while the average lieutenant made $130,095, or 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 a week.

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

Nashua weighs in at 41 employees, Portsmouth at 27 and Concord with 23 over $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.

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 each in Lebanon and Rochester. Laconia has two: the city manager and police chief, who each exceed $100,000. Only the city manager of Somersworth exceeds $100,000. Franklin, Berlin and Claremont have no one paid at that level.

In the larger towns, Salem leads the list with 53 employees, followed by Derry at 23 and Londonderry at 10. Wealthy Bedford only has four employees above $100,000 with three in Merrimack. Town administrators in Goffstown and Bow make over $100,000. Their “union,” the NH Municipal Association, pays its executive director over $140,000.

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 like Health and Human Services, with over 2,000 employees, do not get paid as much as Manchester’s public works director or one of its police lieutenants.

The inequality of government pay will accelerate if the 43 Manchester fire employees who are over $100,000 get a 3 percent raise this year and next. The raises will also push at least five more firefighters over the mark who currently earn $98,000 or $99,000.

In turn, department heads also get the same raise out of “fairness.” There should be a cap on the top end or else the municipal scales will top $200,000 soon.

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.

If we turn to the very lucrative field of education, we find Dartmouth pays 862 employees over $100,000 and UNH does the same for 654 people. UNH President Mark Huddleston got $405,000 and a bonus of $108,000 plus free housing. The country’s president is only paid $400,000 plus housing.

The autonomous NH Retirement System has pay scales higher than state department heads. Its executive director got $248,600 in 2014 while its director of investments earned $214,900. Three others earn over $100,000, but NHRS is not part of the state executive branch.

The municipal health insurer, NH Health Trust, paid its executive director $200,000 last year 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 over 60 lawyers to supervise on behalf of all of us.

The salary and compensation for the president of the NH Education Assistance Foundation in 2013 came to $528,289. At least his kids won’t need any college loan assistance.

The Delta Dental CEO weighed in at $708,515 in salary alone that year while Larry Gammon, CEO of Easter Seals in Manchester, did good and well at $525,857, including a $310,000 salary.

It is obvious that state and federal department head salaries are well on the low scale if we are to recruit and retain the best and brightest to run the state and federal government.

But what about the private sector? New Hampshire’s 577,800 total number of private employees in 2016 averaged a weekly wage of $45,188 a year, according to the NH Department of Employment Security. But to have a living wage for a family of two adults and two children would require a private income of $75,078 a year in New Hampshire, according to MIT statistics.

The charity and nonprofit pay levels show that if you are doing good, you are really doing very well.

Attorney Chuck Douglas is a former New Hampshire congressman, Superior Court judge and Supreme Court justice.

Categories: Opinion