Selectmen to approve 15% pay raise for police chief (Updated)

by beth on March 14, 2016

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This Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen are scheduled to vote in a 15% salary increase for the Southborough Police Chief, possibly without public discussion.

“Approve amendment to contract of Police Chief” is listed as a contract amendment under the “Consent Agenda” portion of the meeting. That section of the meeting is reserved for items that are planned to be ratified as a group without discussion. Individual items are only discussed if a selectman requests it.

The posted packet for the meeting includes the contract amendment, replacing Chief Kenneth Paulhus’ salary with $138,000, up from $120,000.

Last year, the chief received a 4.3% increase that brought him up to the salary of predecessor, Chief Jane Moran. Selectmen John Rooney and Dan Kolenda both dissented against last year’s 4.3% increase. But neither publicly shared their reasons or what they believed the salary change should be.

[Note: Any related discussions about the chief’s performance and disagreements over salary last year were part of a Closed Executive Session that have never been posted. That’s despite an apparently unanimous vote by the board to release them.*]

Just weeks after last year’s vote, the Personnel Board informed selectmen that Southborough was an uncompetitive employer. A study revealed that many Town employees were underpaid compared to counterparts in other towns.

Since then, the Personnel Board and selectmen have publicly worried about retaining and incentivizing talent. Both boards agreed that replacing valued employees is costly. 

In April, Town Meeting voters approved the Personnel Board’s plan to reclassify jobs and raise several salaries based on the study. And selectmen have continued to talk about the need for moving away from staged increases to merit-based increases.

Asked to comment on the raise, Town Administrator Mark Purple responded that the chief “had a good year in his second year with the Town.” He deferred any other comments to selectmen at tomorrow night’s meeting “as the original discussion was part of Executive Session.”

Chief Paulhus was hired just over two years ago at a salary of $115,000.

*After complaints about transparency last year, the board agreed to release Executive Session minutes once the reasons for confidentiality had passed. On January 20, 2015, the Board held an Executive Session to negotiate with non-union contract personnel. 

On July 14, 2015, the BOS voted to approve and release Minutes from six Executive Sessions, including January 20 & 22. Four are posted to the town website. But, as of this post, the January closed session minutes still aren’t posted.

This morning, Purple responded to my query about the missing minutes, promising to look into it.

Updated (3/16/16 10:05 am): Correction – I had posted (for the second time) that Chief Jane Moran had been making $120,000 when she left. That was based on an apparently erroneous report in Metrowest Daily News in 2014. According to the minutes from January 20, 2015’s Executive Session, released at some point yesterday afternoon, she was making $125,000.

1 SouthsideGadsdenFlyer March 14, 2016 at 1:45 PM

Wow, a 15% raise after getting a 4.3% raise last year?! Boy am I in the wrong business!

2 resident March 14, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Are you kidding me?!??!? While the “little people” continue to struggle on salaries (yes, in Southborough) the town is fiscally irresponsible and gives out a HUGE raise like this. We are in deep trouble here people. Now is the time to act. Whomever is in should be out!! This is ridiculous!!

3 beth March 14, 2016 at 3:50 PM

Keep in mind that, as I posted above, replacing an employee is costly, so something the Town wants to avoid when they have the right person in place. So, one question is – is he currently underpaid for the post?

I don’t necessarily have an issue with the raise. I just believe it needs to be publicly justified.

4 M March 14, 2016 at 9:21 PM

It would be hard to say he is underpaid for the post when his increase last year brought him equal to what the outgoing Chief Moran was being paid. Was she underpaid?

5 Dick Snyder March 14, 2016 at 7:16 PM

Thank you Beth for the reasoned comment. I don’t think comments saying it is wrong are justified until Beth’s question is answered.

6 resident March 15, 2016 at 8:13 AM

I have an issue with the raise. In any non-public business you are lucky to get a raise these days and if you do it is maybe 2%. So let’s take our tax dollars that we are all struggling to make and give somebody a 15% raise. That is just crazy! I hope the people in this town rise above this and put a stop to the foolish spending by the people who “lead” the finances. Where was advisory on this? I must agree with Southside, I too am in the wrong business. I find this incredibly irresponsible. I like Chief Paulhus and all but, really????

7 Matthew Brownell March 15, 2016 at 9:29 AM

15% ?? (!!)


Public sector employees have been running amok, and compensation reform is long overdue.

In the private/non-public sector, gone are the days of automatically receiving annual pay raises and pension payouts based on how long one warms a seat. It was only a few years ago when the employees for many Metrowest companies (EMC, to name one), took a 5% – 10% salary **decrease** to reflect the downturn in economic conditions. Thousands of other private sector employees have since been replaced by contract workers with H1B visas.

To the Selectmen who support this 15% pay raise . . . please GET BETTER.

8 Frank Crowell March 15, 2016 at 10:54 AM

I have always found it interesting that we get upset at what town officials make but not when school budgets are overwhelmingly passed with vague mentions of how all teacher’s salaries go up only…………slightly. Where has that gotten us? Has anyone reviewed what the school district administrators make in town? And what have we got for that high priced talent – we currently have a partial answer for that.

Yes, the selectmen should justify this raise. Fairly sure that it is an easy justification, but they should speak for themselves. We should be asking the school committees that very same question where I am sure their task will be much more difficult……. Well, that is if they actually answer it.

9 Southville March 15, 2016 at 11:01 AM

For what it’s worth, it looks like this is somewhat comparable to other towns nearby. Hopkinton back in 2012 appeared to pay about 135,000, and in 2012 Shrewsbury paid 130,000. And I think it’s safe to assume those have gone up at least a bit in the last 4 years or so.

10 Southern Breeze March 15, 2016 at 2:15 PM

The cited examples are both for towns significantly larger with greater populations.

Southborough – 15.7 sq mi / 9,767 pop (2010)
Hopkinton – 28.2 sq mi / 14,925 pop (2010)
Shrewsbury – 21.7 sq mi / 35,608 pop (2010)

Anyway, if someone accepts a job for a low figure that is up to them. They are free to move on if they want greater reward as in the private sector. Just handing out tax payer $ because looking for a replacement is time consuming, is problematic. I am not saying to purposely underpay someone, but there are advantages to having a somewhat sleepy community that may have a value to employees in this line of work. Perhaps not having to deal with the nasty side of life every day is a motivation to take a little less. Combat pay or no as it were. Knowing that you are probably going to be able to see your family and not have to worry about needle sticks and armed robbery every day has value in the job market. I trust that the Selectmen are going to do right by the towns folk.

11 Townie March 15, 2016 at 9:09 PM

I’m laughing at all you negative commenters. There’s more of you upset that the Chief of Police is getting a $18,000 raise than there are about the hundreds of thousands that was stolen from the school system unnoticed for months!

You should all be more upset with the fact that the school system constantly say they need more money, yet hundreds of thousands go missing and no one noticed for MONTHS? How much more money is this town going to give the schools that they DON’T NEED.

12 Rob March 16, 2016 at 8:09 AM

The problem with your line of thinking is that the school system IS our town. It’s the only thing this town has. We get very few services from the town. Its why people stay here. I’m upset about missing funds too, and someone should be held accountable. But lets not forget that the schools keep our property values up, not the amount we pay our town employees.

13 resident March 16, 2016 at 9:26 AM

Another note on your comment is that the money will be recovered according to a statement by the Superintendent. This money will not.

14 Al Hamilton March 16, 2016 at 10:51 AM

I am sorry, but I don’t believe in the tooth fairy. Unless we were insured we might get a few pennies on the dollar.

15 Frank Crowell March 16, 2016 at 1:34 PM

I also do not believe in the tooth fairy, or that total cost of audits, reviews and whatever else will be zero. I also do not believe the school system is our town – it is a part of it – allowed to grow to an apparently unmanageable organization. Thinking that the school system is our town is exactly what the educational elite (public and private) want us to think and have won over the majority of the town and exactly why it should be broken up.

16 southsider March 17, 2016 at 3:30 PM

See this story:

Superintendent expects to recapture stolen funds that would result in loss this year
by beth on March 14, 2016

17 Johnboy March 17, 2016 at 7:37 AM

Please raise your hand if you ever got a 15% raise!

18 resident March 17, 2016 at 2:26 PM

My hands are certainly not raised. I have never seen the likes of the irresponsible spending by the BOS. Sickening!

19 Southville March 18, 2016 at 8:10 AM

Check out the other article posted about the salary, it does a decent job explaining the raise, and it makes sense to me. Sounds like a big part of it is that they weren’t 100% sure he would be a great fit, so they gave him a lower than usual salary in order to give him time to prove himself. He proved himself, and he then got bumped up to what he would normally have been at in the first place.

So from what I can tell, it’s not a normal raise, it’s more of a pre-built-in adjustment to his salary. I actually think this is pretty good, and speaks well to the chief, that he was willing to say “I’ll take less than what I should get and prove that I’m worth the full salary.”

20 Donna McDaniel March 18, 2016 at 12:10 AM

Arguments for the raise pro/con aside, the comment suggesting we get few town services is pretty far off base… have you read the Annual Town Report lately? It’s on the website..
Look at the boards that serve us from Board of Health, Council on Aging–Senior Center, the Youth Commission, the Recreation Commission, the various Boards and committees that protect our land, zoning, planning, etc.– the Town Clerk (elections, record-keeping for meetings, boards, and many licenses), plus the required services and support services (treasurer, collector, accountant, assessors)– And then there are the schools… aside from what you think of budget…pretty hard not to consider that a service to the town. And don’t forget who repairs, plows, and sweeps our streets and sidewalks. And remember the police and fire (and ambulance) are there as needed for us on call.
What did I forget? What’s missing?
One other point… for better or worse demographics show we are the most affluent town in Worcester County. (Not that all of us contribute to reaching that level but it does have something to do with the resources we are fortunate to have.

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