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City Council raises also may boost pensions

A $20,000 raise for Boston councilors would do more than increase their annual pay: For many, it could substantially increase their pensions.

The pension of Councilor Charles C. Yancey would increase by at least $16,000 a year if he were to remain in office through 2018, according to an analysis of data from the Boston Retirement Board. Yancey, who is 65 and has pushed for an even larger raise, has served on the council for more than three decades.

Other councilors who stand to benefit significantly include Mark Ciommo and Stephen J. Murphy, both 57, and Salvatore LaMattina, who is 55. Their annual pensions could increase by 23 percent, or at least $10,000 a year. Their benefits would vary depending on how long they remain in office and when they begin collecting retirement.

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City Council President Bill Linehan proposed the pay increase, but he would not see as large a bump in his pension as his peers. The 63-year-old has worked for the city for 40 years and took a significant pay cut when he was elected to the council.

Linehan could have retired last year with an annual pension of $80,000, based on his six-figure salary as special assistant to the city’s chief operating officer. The proposed City Council pay raise would increase his pension, but he would have to work four more years and win two more elections.

“I ran for office because I felt it was important to serve,” Linehan said, adding, “This could improve my pension by about $5,000, but I’d have to get elected two more times to realize it.”

Other councilors could not be reached for comment.

The Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a fiscal watchdog funded by businesses and nonprofit institutions, wants the city to take a broader look at top officials’ salaries and use the guidance of a mayor-appointed commission. The bureau has been lobbying for lower raises for councilors.

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“Pensions would increase substantially,” said the bureau’s president, Samuel R. Tyler. “You can’t ignore that is a direct result of salaries increases.”

Earlier this month, councilors voted to increase their pay to $107,500, from $87,500, where it has remained since 2006. The measure must still be signed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has until Friday to approve the raise or issue a veto, according to his spokeswoman, Kate Norton.

The City Council push for a higher salary has been tumultuous. Linehan initially proposed a $25,000 raise, which would have gone into effect immediately. The State Ethics Commission objected and told the city the vote would violate the law unless the increase was delayed until after the next election.

Councilors postponed the raise until 2016 and reduced the amount by $5,000 under a veto threat from Walsh. Councilors say they have heard few objections from constituents, and that opposition to the raise has come largely from the media.

The raise won overwhelming support among older councilors who have served longer. Councilors who voted in favor of the pay increase had an average age of 52. The four councilors who voted against the measure had an average age of 33, and two have been councilors for less than a year.

Like all municipal employees, councilors contribute a portion of their salaries to the pension system. When they retire, councilors receive a pension based on a complex calculation that includes age at retirement, years working for the city and other government agencies, and salary.

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For most councilors, pensions are based on the average of their three highest consecutive years of salary. To take advantage of the raise, they would have to work at least three years at the higher pay, which would be through 2018.

Earlier this month, the City Council debated the raise. Yancey rose and reminded the audience that after 30 years, he was the longest-serving member on the body. He objected to lowering the raise by $5,000 and rejected an amendment delaying it until 2016.

Linehan was right, Yancey said, to propose a larger raise that would have gone into effect immediately.

“I understand the political forces saying we cannot do that because it is viewed as being too self-serving,” Yancey said. “I would have voted for it without any pangs of guilt or conscience, because you folks are worth it.”


Andrew Ryan can be reached at andrew.ryan@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.