June 19, 2018
METHUEN, MA — As Methuen suffers through the worst budget crisis it’s seen in years, two departments lie at the center of the city’s fiscal woes: the school department, already $4 million in debt from this past fiscal year, and the police department, whose contracts will cost the city more than $1 million in raises.
While the School Department has fallen into debt mainly due to special education costs, the police contracts, which city leaders say they are unable to afford, are the result of poor negotiation on the city’s part, officials said.
City Auditor Thomas Kelly and Mayor James Jajuga said Friday the contract negotiated under former Mayor Stephen Zanni included language that never should have been approved because of the exponential increases in salary it afforded all 96 officers, plus the chief.
“I don’t know how this got to the point it got to,” Jajuga said. “I spoke to Tom Kelly about it, and Tom said, ‘I was never asked to really analyze it, when I did I said there were problems and I was ignored.'”
The city’s five captains stand to gain the most from the contracts. One police captain, who currently earns $157,052.16 with ancillary benefits included, will earn $440,735.42 next fiscal year if the contracts are honored — a raise of 180.63 percent, according to data provided by Kelly.