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Newton

School superintendent tops Newton salaries

190 workers topped $100,000 last year

The school superintendent, police and fire chiefs, police officers, principals, and a handful of teachers ranked among 190 Newton public employees who earned more than $100,000 last year.

About 35 of those employees, all in the Police Department, at least doubled their regular pay by working overtime, volunteering for detail work, and qualifying for bonuses because they have a college degree, according to payroll data for calendar year 2011 released by the city this month.

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Superintendent David Fleishman led the city in pay, making about $254,574 last year. Coming in second was police Lieutenant David Tempesta, who earned $176,261.

He was followed by Officer James McCarthy ($174,411), police Chief Matthew Cummings ($168,737), police Sergeant John Babcock ($164,404), and fire Chief Bruce Proia ($156,650).

Mayor Setti Warren was the 214th highest-paid employee, earning $97,500.

The city and schools have about 3,600 full- and part-time employees who are eligible to receive benefits. Newton also hires another 600 workers during the summer as lifeguards and to do other seasonal work.

Overall, in 2011 the city’s payroll increased by about 1 percent from the previous year to $191 million. But certain earnings categories saw larger jumps, including overtime and detail pay.

The city spent $4.7 million in overtime pay in 2011. School custodians, police officers, firefighters, electricians, and water and sewer main crews, among others, made thousands of dollars in overtime. The Fire Department had the most in overtime payments - $1 million - followed by police and schools.

The custodial overtime is driven in part by special events held at the schools. A portion of the overtime costs are paid for through facility usage fees that the schools charge groups, said Heather Richards, the district’s human resources director.

Overall, overtime pay increased by 12 percent from 2010, much of it due to the severe snowstorms last winter, said Dolores Hamilton, Newton’s human resources director.

Often those storms hit during the weekend and holidays and employees were called in to clear public parking lots and sidewalks in front of public buildings, Hamilton said.

Detail pay earned by police officers and firefighters also saw a spike of about 13 percent to $3.2 million from the previous year.

A significant number of city road projects last summer and new union contracts that increased the detail pay rate for private jobs likely contributed to the overall rise in the Police Department, said Chief Cummings.

The police officers union negotiated new contracts last summer that included a $5 increase to the detail pay rate, pushing it to $45 an hour. When officers provide traffic control for projects such as utility work, the private companies pick up the cost of the detail.

For city jobs, including some of the road projects, officers are paid at a lower $36 an hour rate, Cummings said.

McCarthy and Babcock used the detail work to more than double their wages; both men were also top detail-pay earners in 2010. McCarthy’s regular pay was $56,443, but he received $76,966 from detail work and $41,003 from overtime and other benefits. Babcock’s base pay was $68,089, to which he added $68,779 in detail work and $27,536 in overtime and other benefits.

The detail work can be trying and requires time away from family, Cummings said.

“Some officers rely on it for extra income,’’ he said.

Still, the detail requests have eased in recent months, he said.

“It’s down now,’’ Cummings said.

The city also added to employee base salaries with workers compensation payments, mileage reimbursements, a $700 bonus to offset higher employee health care costs, retroactive pay increases, Quinn bill payments for police, and night-shift differential payments for police and firefighters. All those payments were captured in a category called “other’’ in the city’s payroll spreadsheet.

In total, Newton spent $13.7 million on those “other’’ payments last calendar year, a 6 percent increase over 2010.

Police employees in particular earned tens of thousands of dollars in the other category, in large part due to additional pay they received for getting a college degree.

Officers can increase their salaries by as much as 25 percent by earning a higher-education degree. Although the state initially contributed to that boost, the city now covers the full amount of that educational supplement, Newton officials said. In fiscal year 2011, Newton spent $1.5 million on Quinn bill benefits for police, according to David Wilkinson, the city’s comptroller.

During last year’s contract negotiations, Newton also agreed to expand the higher-education degree perk to firefighters.

Newton officials expect about 100 firefighters to qualify for the benefit in the coming years, as more earn their degrees, and the cost to the city could increase to about $447,000 annually and add to the city’s payroll.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com.
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