April 22 2019

Changes to Way Superintendent’s Salary Presented in Budget Causes Initial Confusion

By: Rich Hosford

A change in the ways the Burlington School Department’s administration salaries are reported in a proposed budget has caused some confusion in the public debate.


After the proposed FY20 budget was discussed at the Tuesday, April 9, School Committee meeting, there were reports in some publications that Superintendent of Schools Eric Conti was set to receive a $14,000, or roughly 7 percent, raise in the year to come.


A quick comparison of the number listed on the budget sheet would seem to bear this math out. In the initial budget report for FY19, Conti’s salary was listed as $201,912 and the new proposed budget has it listed as $216,045. Plug those numbers into a percentage change calculator and you get a result of 7.4 percent.


However, School Department Business Manager Nicole Coscia and School Committee Member Christine Monaco explained to BNEWS that the two number are not apples to apples. They explained that in the last year a 5 percent annuity that Conti receives as part of his contract was listed with his salary rather than in the line item for “Negotiated Salary Adjustments” as it had in the past.  


Monaco said the annuity, which was part of the negotiations when Conti was first brought on as Superintendent, takes 5 percent of his salary every year and put it in a sort of forced saving account for the future.


“Instead of taking all his salary every year, 5 percent would go into this annuity,” she said.


What changed in the past year, Coscia said, is that as part of the rebuild of how the School Department budget is created, she started to include the annuity amount into the Salary line in the proposed budget.


So rather than making $201,912 in 2018, Conti made $211,760 in total compensation with the annuity included. In 2019, which is the same number listed in the proposed budget for FY20 because actual negotiations have not been completed yet, he made $216,045, a 2 percent increase, in total compensation.


Making things more confusing is that, as mentioned above, the proposed FY20 budget actually shows what Conti made in FY19 rather than what might be the final number approved by the School Committee. The reason for this, Coscia explained, is that due to the timing of when the budget must be discussed and when negotiations with department staff are complete overlap. The setting the raise for the superintendent is one of the final actions the committee takes in the fiscal year and depends on available funds.



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