Municipal Salaries Now and Then

April 19, 2011
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Most local newspapers print municipal salaries as though they are all about insults, shock and awe – that we should be shocked that municipal employees make good salaries and benefits with the awe – why should it be that way?

About 30 years ago, municipal salaries from top to bottom were a fraction of what they are today. If you go back 50 years, the salaries paid to municipal employees of every kind were shockingly low.

Firefighters, police officers, city workers were paid unbelievably low salaries.

Many of us old enough to recall can remember an uncle or a cousin who worked as a firefighter during the 1960’s for $6,500 a year – or a city employee driving a city truck working for $7,500 a year with department heads not faring that much better.

Then came the 1970’s and 1980’s and the rise of municipal employee salaries to the place where they ought to be.

You see, just because you are a municipal employee doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid fairly to work your position.

By the 1990’s, municipal salaries were on their way up but so weren’t salaries of all types.

The great prosperity of the Clinton era led into the Bush era and everything kept going up and up, straight up as though this direction would go on forever.

Then came the inevitable pension add-ons and super health benefits and other things like police details.

Since the near collapse of the economy 3 years ago, millions have lost their jobs, their pensions and their health benefits.

Now the tables have turned.

It is city employees, police and firemen who have relative job security, great health benefits, guaranteed pensions and the ability to make more money above and beyond their salaries.

Because they have all of this after decades of struggle doesn’t make them bad people or people worthy of being insulted because they are, as a group, doing better than many people in the private sector.

But they should know that the party is over.

What goes up must come down.

In the future, municipal employees will have to give up some of the gains they’ve made because the money just isn’t there to pay them anymore nor is the willingness of the taxpayer to bear this burden.

This is beginning with reform of the municipal healthcare programs which are bankrupting local municipalities and there will be more cuts – not so much in salaries – but in numbers employed.

The city of Lynn already reflects this trend.

Everything is changing.

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