One year ago this month this newspaper reported Bow’s loss in court of the tax appeal by Public Service Company. The January 2017 paper reported on my review of the cases from the court I served on for over eight years as follows:
“The statistics from utility tax appeals in the New Hampshire Supreme Court for the last 35 years reflect no reversals at all in similar cases.” Bow Times, January 2017, page 1.
Now it is 36 years of no reversals.
In the editorial a year ago I said:
“While the town has appealed, the effort seems futile given that most of the judge’s decision was based on lack of credible evidence from the town’s expert on valuation of utility properties. The Supreme Court does not make new determinations of credibility.”
So what did the court say in its opinion this month?
“Credibility, of course, is for the trial judge to determine as a matter of fact… We find no reason to disturb the court’s assessment” because the Public Service Company’s expert was credible, Bow’s was not.
I pleaded personally with Harry Judd a year ago to settle this loser of a case before it was decided by the Supreme Court. Harry is an energy company lawyer not a litigator. Now we have to settle with a foot on our throat and we have wasted a year of interest at about $400,000 plus the cost of transcripts and attorney fees. The result? An opinion brushing off Bow in a little over four pages and not one single cite to an exhibit or a single page of testimony in the six-day trial.
I hate to say I told you so but a year ago at page two of The Bow Times newspaper I said:
1. Get a new town counsel
2. Get an attorney that specializes in tax cases
3. Settle as soon as possible
Thanks for blowing $400,000 on a frivolous appeal.
As local towns, cities and school districts began preparing budgets for the spring, it is worth remembering that in this state, RSA 98-E extends to every public employee, at any level, “a full right to publicly discuss and give opinions as an individual on all matters concerning any government entity and its policies.”
In 2012, a Merrimack County jury awarded a state employee $150,000 for having his freedom of speech interfered with when he was publicly critical of his employer, the state prison, for some of its policies and procedures that posed a threat to the safety of the corrections officers.
In other words, you must speak out as an individual and not in your official government capacity, but once you do, any interference with your right to freely criticize or disclose matters of interest to the public may not be interfered with. If your rights are interfered with you may seek damages as well as attorney’s fees.
Also, everyone should be reminded that the Whistleblower Protection Act, RSA 275-E:2 provides that no employer may intimidate, threaten or fire any employee because that employee in good faith reports what he or she believes is a violation of a law or rule adopted by any government entity. Thus, public employees should ignore orders by higher-ups to shut up and not comment on matters the public should know about.
by Chuck Douglas
Are all government pay scales the same?
How do government pay levels stack up with non-profits?
It is clear that the big bucks are not in state government, but at the local level.
A right-to-know law request by this paper revealed that for 2016 the three largest cities had the best paid government employees.
The grand prize winner is Manchester where 165 city employees have gross pay of over $100,000 while only 103 state officials do so.
The Manchester Airport Director ($233,788), Public Works Director ($167,355) and City Solicitor ($161,133) lead the list. Over 120 police and fire department employees exceed $100,000 in pay without counting in tens of thousands in additional benefits. For the record, the Mayor is paid only $72,000.
The average Manchester police officer made $81,179 in 2016 while the average Lieutenant made $130,095 or just shy of the Governor’s salary of $135,592.
The average of all city salaries is $1,283 per week compared to private sector employees at $1,027 a week.
Manchester School District employees also did well with 21 topping $100,000 for administrators and even one teacher at $113,853.
Nashua weighs in at 41 employees, Portsmouth at 27 and Concord with 23 over $100,000. A lot of the numbers are bloated by overtime which also runs up the number for pensions based on those high gross wages. Pension costs then are said to be uncontrollable by towns and cities.
The smaller cities clearly do not pay as well as the large ones. Keene has 13 city employees with gross wages above $100,000 and Dover has 18. The smaller cities reflect a lower pay scale and thus there are only five each in Lebanon and Rochester. Laconia has two, the City Manager and Police Chief who each exceed $100,000. Only the City Manager of Somersworth exceeds $100,000. Franklin, Berlin and Claremont have no one paid at that level.
TOWN PAY SCALES
Looking at some of the larger towns is quite revealing. Salem leads the list with 53 employees, followed by Derry at 23 and Londonderry at 10. Wealthy Bedford only has four employees above $100,000 with three in Merrimack. The Town Administrators in Goffstown and Bow make over $100,000. Their “union,” the N.H. Municipal Association, pays its Executive Director over $140,000.
STATE PAY SCALES
But a look at state government reveals only 103 state officials listed in RSA 94 that exceed $100,000. A handful of physician positions go up into the $150,000 range, but heads of giant departments like HHS with over 2,000 employees do not get paid as much as Manchester’s Public Works Director or one of its Police Lieutenants.
The inequality of government pay will accelerate if the 43 Manchester fire employees who are over $100,000 get a 3% raise this year and next. The raises will also push at least five more firefighters over the mark who currently earn $98,000 or $99,000.
In turn department heads also get the same raise out of “fairness.” There should be a cap on the top end or else the municipal scales will top $200,000 soon.
The cozy relationship between union support for aldermen and aldermanic support for massive pay increases will further stress the taxpayers. At least they will know who their new royalty is. And they are not in Concord.
If we turn to the very lucrative field of education we find Dartmouth pays 862 employees over $100,000 and UNH does the same for 654 people. UNH President Huddleston got $405,000 and a bonus of $108,000 plus free housing. The country’s President is only paid $400,000 plus housing.
The nonprofit autonomous N.H. Retirement System providing benefits to state and local government employees has pay scales higher than state department heads. Its Executive Director got $248,600 in 2014 while its Director of Investments earned $214,900. Three others earn over $100,000, but NHRS is not part of the state executive branch.
The municipal health insurer, the N.H. Health Trust’s Executive Director last year earned $200,000 and two lawyers on the staff were paid $193,974 and $186,120.
That makes the Attorney General’s salary of $128,260 completely out of whack with his responsibility, background and a staff of over 60 lawyers to supervise on behalf of all of us.
The salary and compensation for the President of the N.H. Education Assistance Foundation in 2013 came to $528,289. At least his kids won’t need any college loan assistance.
The Delta Dental CEO weighed in at $708,515 in salary alone that year while Larry Gammon, CEO of Easter Seals in Manchester, did good and well at $525,857 including a $310,000 salary.
It is obvious that state and federal department head salaries are well on the low scale if we are to recruit and retain the best and brightest to run the state and federal government.
But what about the private sector who pays the tuition, taxes and checks to charities? N.H. had 577,800 total private employees in 2016. Their total average weekly wage according to the N.H. Department of Employment Security was $869 or $45,188 a year.
But to have a living wage for a family of two adults and two children would require a private income of $75,078 a year in New Hampshire according to MIT statistics.
The charity and nonprofit pay levels show that if you are doing good you are really doing very well.
Chuck Douglas is a former New Hampshire Congressman, Superior and Supreme Court judge.
by Chuck Douglas
Dunbarton’s J.R. Hoell is out of tune with his own Republican Party. After compromise (a dirty word for Hoell) 93.2% of House Republicans voted for the budget Governor Sununu signed into law. But 14 “Freedom” Caucus members organized by Hoell voted to kill the budget that has funding for our schools, bridges and highways. Gridlock is not the way to move our state forward.
WHAT J.R. HOELL VOTED AGAINST
Infrastructure Funding from 2017 surplus: $30 million in local highway aid; $6.8 million for municipal bridge aid. This is money to help Bow. Hoell voted no.
School Building Aid from 2017 surplus: Establishes the Public School Infrastructure Revitalization Trust Fund at an estimated 48.5 million. This is money that could help Bow. Hoell voted no.
Municipal aid: Distribute $137.6 million to cities and towns like Bow and Dunbarton from Meals and Rooms Tax receipts. Hoell voted no.
Public Safety: Provides funding for five new state trooper positions in 2018, with authority to hire five more in 2019. Hoell voted no.
Corrections: Provides funding for 55 new positions at the new women’s prison in Concord, now expected to open in early 2018. Hoell voted no.
Transportation: Fully funds highway block grants to municipalities at approximately $790 million over the next two years and provides $87.7 million in gas tax revenue to the Highway and Bridge Betterment Program. This is money to help Bow. Hoell voted no.
Child Protection: Provides funding for 20 additional child protective service workers in the Division for Children, Youth and Families; establishes an associate commissioner position with responsibility for overseeing DCYF. Hoell voted no.
Domestic violence: Allocates $500,000 per year for sexual and domestic violence prevention programs to be divided among the rape and domestic violence crisis centers operated by the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Hoell voted no.
Mental Health: Adds $22.6 million for services, including benefits for children with several emotional disturbances, 20 new in-patient beds; 60 new transitional beds and a new mobile crisis team. Hoell voted no.
Drug treatment: Increases funding for the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery from 1.7 percent to 3.4 percent of prior year’s profits from the Liquor Commission. Hoell voted no.
Development Services: Appropriates $510 million for services to developmentally disabled children and adults. Hoell voted no.