NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

July 26, 2013

Mayor disputes report's salary figures

AMESBURY — Mayor Thatcher Kezer is pushing back against reports that Amesbury’s average public employee earnings far exceed the county average, arguing that the data in question doesn’t take the city’s benefit and health care savings into account while misidentifying the numbers attributed to Essex County as a whole.

Last week the Pioneer Institute, an independent public policy research group based in Boston, launched a new website called MassPensions.com. The website’s primary function is to make pension data more available for the public, but the site also features information regarding average employee salaries for communities around the state.

According to the MassPensions data, Amesbury’s average earnings in 2012 was $52,600, while Essex County’s was $39,700, but Kezer’s primary concern is that the data attributed to Essex County actually reflected the members of the Essex Regional Retirement System — which includes 19 towns, six school districts, 17 housing authorities and six special districts — and is therefore not the correct average.

Beside taking issue with the Pioneer Institute’s misidentification, Kezer added that the 19 towns that are part of the regional system are much smaller than Amesbury and offer a significantly lower level of service, making it an apples to oranges comparison.

“Those communities that have a volunteer fire department, for instance, it’s going to pull the average way down, so there is no comparison,” Kezer said. “So to make any comparison to any community that has no similar profile is just unfair.”

While Kezer is correct in his assertion that the Pioneer Institute’s data doesn’t reflect the actual average earnings of Essex County employees, PERAC’s annual reports indicate that the average earnings for city employees in Amesbury are still among the highest in the county, and have been growing at a faster rate than other local communities.

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