Cops earn top dollar with details

Every tax is a pay cut.  Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation

Cops earn top dollar with details Saturday, August 1, 2009
Dan McDonald 508-626-4416 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM-- Town Manager Julian Suso holds the highest municipal position in the town, but his take-home pay from fiscal 2009 ranks him sixth among town employees, behind the recently retired school superintendent and four police officers.

Sixteen of the top 20 municipal money earners for fiscal 2009 are police officers. Former school Superintendent Eugene Thayer and Suso, and school principals Michael Welch and Maria Iglesias are the only town employees not with the Framingham Police Department who earned more than $126,077 last year.

Thayer, who ended his tenure July 2, was paid the most in fiscal 2009 with a salary of $191,723.

Police Chief Steven Carl ranked second, with a take-home pay of $171,674, which includes his salary of $137,391 and a Quinn Bill stipend, which reimburses police for having educational degrees. The chief receives no detail or overtime pay.

Besides Carl, the top earning police include:

- Lt. Frank Divittorio, $162,406

- Sgt. Martin Keith $153,529

- Lt. Stephen Cronin $150,805

- Officer John Vizakis, $147,999

- Sgt. Michael Esposito $144,699

- Officer James Green, $142,526

- Lt. Michael Siaba $140,212

Those incomes are significantly higher than the base salaries for the respective positions.

An officer's base pay ranges from $40,102 for a rookie patrolman on the day shift to $52,044 for a senior night patrolman, according to police. A sergeant's starting pay in Framingham is $60,105.

A lieutenant's starting salary is $73,332. Captains are paid upward of $86,000.

A deputy chief's base can range from $98,881 to $99,793, said the town's chief financial officer.

Top-earning police garnered additional income from Quinn Bill reimbursements, detail and overtime pay, and stipends for things like being a registered EMT and working on holidays.

The detail rate for patrolmen is $43 per hour; for superior officers, including sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and deputy chiefs, the rate is $45.17 per hour.

Traffic details mean a minimum of four hours of work, according to police, regardless of whether or not they are needed the whole time.

Private vendors pay for some details. Last year, they paid $1.46 million in detail pay. For town projects, Framingham factors detail pay into the project costs. Last year, those details totaled $389,000.

The going overtime rate is time and a half.

For most police on the top-earner list, the base pay is beefed up with many hours of detail work or overtime shifts.

Officer John Vizakis, for instance, pulled in $147,999 in fiscal 2009. Starting with a base of $53,741 and earning no education-based pay boosts, Vizakis earned $80,617 in detail pay, $2,796 in overtime and $10,844 in stipends.

He had to work an average of more than 35 hours worth of details each week to amass $80,000.

Police Lt. Frank Divittorio, meanwhile, made $162,406 last year. He earned more than $75,000 in base pay, $18,885 in education incentives, $58,127 in details and $8,993 in overtime. He had to work an average of 24.75 hours worth of details each week to earn that salary.

Asked if racking up paid details could lead to fatigue and subpar work performance, Lt. Paul Shastany acknowledged that it was a concern, but said the administration keeps an eye on the matter.

Vizakis, Shastany said, "is like a machine. ... I do not know anyone who works harder."

Meanwhile, the new school superintendent, Steven Hiersche, will make more than Thayer did last year.

Hiersche reached a contract with the School Committee earlier this year that will pay him $200,000. Additional perks include $10,000 to an annuity of his choice, a $5,000 car allowance, 25 vacation days, and 35 sick days in his first year.

Selectmen have been in negotiations regarding a new contract for Suso for several weeks. The town paid him $149,517 last year.

When shown the list of highest money-earners, Framingham residents inside local coffee shops had mixed reactions.

Sitting in a downtown Dunkin' Donuts, Jack Perry, who moved to Framingham 10 years ago from his native South Boston because he could not afford to live in the city, called the incomes outrageous.

"I can't believe those salaries, that's how much some doctors make," said Perry. "Makes you wonder: What are they doing to make that money?"

Finishing up a late-morning coffee inside a Nobscot Honey Dew Donuts, late last week Joe Tambascio, 71, who has lived in town for a decade, had a different take. He had no qualms with the list of six-figure incomes, particularly for the police.

"Anytime the police are needed they are there," he said. "I don't have any problems with the pay."

Putting down his New York Post, Bobby Boucini, who has lived in town for 76 years, said "Every town is like that. Sure it's exorbitant pay, but everyone's getting that."

Lifelong town resident and 21-year-old cosmetologist Jesse Fair was critical of the pay to those on the list. Of police, she said, "They don't seem to do too much."

Town Meeting member Peter Pleshaw, who served on the police force during the 1960s, said the incomes on the list show a statewide concern.

"The question is: How much can the towns afford to pay our public employees?" he asked.

Shastany said he expects police pay to drop in the next year, with the state cutting its portion of Quinn Bill funding and pushing for more civilian flaggers for work road projects instead of police.

It has yet to be determined if towns will be forced to pick up the state's slack when it comes to educational reimbursements for the Quinn Bill. Several police unions say they should.

Pleshaw suggested the state should move on from the Quinn Bill, saying, "It has done its job."

For Shastany, the bottom line is that police earn their pay.

"These are not gifts," said Shastany. "They are being paid through contract agreements (the police) have entered with the town."

In other sectors, said Shastany, anyone who works 60 hours is looked at as hardworking and motivated. They're called real go-getters. But when it comes to police salaries, "We are looked at with a jaundiced eye," said Shastany.

"We work hard," he said. "And we're not red-faced about the earnings we make."

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