By Rachana Rathi, Globe Staff
Newton Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Young made $247,870 in 2008, keeping him at the top of the city's payroll and among the highest paid superintendents in the state.
Young is one of several prominent Newton city employees who made more in 2008 than they did in 2007, even as the economy began to plummet and local governments and businesses tightened spending. The 2008 earnings figures, released yesterday by the city, are inflated somewhat because the city had 53 weekly pay periods in 2008.
There were 197 Newton city employees who made more than $100,000 in 2008, a figure swelled by the settlement of a contract with firefighters who received large amounts of back pay.
City spokesman Jeremy Solomon, who made just over $100,000 in 2008, said that many of the earnings increases in 2008 are reflective of a collective bargaining agreement reached in 2006.
"Obviously the fiscal landscape has changed quite a bit since then," he said. "I can't tell you what's going to happen on the bargaining table, but I can tell you we're very concerned about the prospects of fiscal year 2010...Mayor (David) Cohen has said everything is on the table -- from salaries to programs and service cuts."
More than a dozen of city's union contracts expire at the end of this fiscal year, and the city is expected to begin negotiations this spring.
Newton has been the target of taxpayer complaints in recent months because it is building a new $195-million high school, the most expensive in the state.
The figures show that more than 200 city of Newton employees made more than Mayor Cohen, who is paid $97,500 a year. Cohen sought a $27,500 raise in May, but abandoned the effort after a political outcry.
Young's earnings reflect a 4.5-percent salary increase that went into effect July 1, as well as other benefits he receives as superintendent. By contrast, Boston superintendent Carol R. Johnson makes $275,000 a year. The school committee declined to give her a bonus last September, though she received positive reviews.
Marc Laredo, chairman of the School Committee, said the city is not in a position to ask for a wage freeze from Young.
"As many communities do, we have a multi-year contract with our superintendent which has certain contractual obligations that we are obligated to meet. In fairness to everybody, we negotiated this contract a year and half ago, and when you negotiate an agreement, you do so in good faith," Laredo said.
In Newton, recently departed city police chief John O'Brien, the third highest in the city with earnings of $165,084, was among the prominent employees who made more in 2008 than in 2007. His earnings increased by more than $8,600 from 2007, a figure presumeably inflated partly by the extra pay period in 2008.
Fire Chief Joseph LaCroix received $6,300 more last year than in 2007, raising his earnings to $141,239. Solomon, the city spokesman, was paid $100,419 in 2008, up from $91,922 in 2007.