AMESBURY — Amesbury public employees are paid significantly more on average than their counterparts in other Essex County communities, and according to new data released by the Pioneer Institute in Boston, the gap is growing wider.
Between 2005 and 2012, Amesbury’s employees saw their average earnings grow from $34,500 to $52,600, an increase of 52 percent, the data says. During that same period of time, the average earnings of public employees across Essex County rose from $30,800 to $39,700, an increase of about 29 percent.
By comparison, the average earnings of Newburyport public employees have held relatively steady since 2005. That year employees earned $38,600 on average, and the number subsequently dipped to $36,100 for two years before increasing to its current average of $41,400, the data says. The increase in Newburyport average salaries from 2005 to 2012 was about 7 percent. Newburyport was originally well over the Essex County average, but now only exceeds it by $1,700.
The figures come from MassPensions.com, the Pioneer Institute’s newly launched website, which aims to make public pension data more accessible to the public and draws most of its data from the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission’s annual reports.
The annual earnings data is broken down by calendar year, includes both employee salaries and benefits and takes into account city workers and school administrators, but not teachers, according to Joseph Connarton, executive director of PERAC.
The numbers appear to back up a commonly voiced perception around Amesbury that city employees earn higher than average salaries. The point was frequently raised during this past budget season, and several members of the City Council expressed a desire to curtail certain highly paid officials’ salaries even though they lacked the power to do so.
Mayor Thatcher Kezer has countered this perception by pointing out that the city was recently able to realize $849,000 in health care savings during the last contract negotiations, meaning that even though salaries did increase, the city saved money on its overall personnel package.