Bristol’s 10 highest-paid employees last year earned an average of $110,000, according to numbers from the town finance office. Owing to overtime and detail pay, most of the top earners work in the Bristol Police Department.
Despite the six-figure salaries of some employees after overtime is factored in, overall Bristol ranks toward the bottom of cities and towns throughout the state in the amount paid to key municipal employees.
Seven of the top 10 earning municipal employees are patrolmen or sergeants with the Bristol Police Department. Sgt. Michael Vieira earned a total of $139,668, more than doubling his base salary of $64,846. Sgt. Paul Medeiros also doubled his salary, earning $128,518 with the same base pay.
The increase in income is due to overtime hours and detail work — directing traffic during road construction projects or working security during large public events, for example. Contractors typically reimburse the town for an officer’s detail pay on projects not directly conducted by the town. The number of overtime and detail hours patrolmen and sergeants worked was not readily available in the Police Department or town finance offices.
Police Chief Josue Canario was third on the list in 2016, earning $111,982, followed by five more department employees. (See the full list at right). The only non-police employees on the top 10 list are Finance Director Julie Goucher at $103,275 and Public Works Director Kevin McBride, who earned $102,365.
Town Administrator Steven Contente said the town makes a concerted effort to maintain reasonable salaries to support a tight budget while also rewarding good work and being able to attract top talent.
“I have a real tough budget; I think we have to consider a number of factors,” said Mr. Contente, himself among the lowest-paid top municipal administrators in the state. “Salary should go hand-in-hand with effectiveness. There are some areas where we are high. I’d like to be in line with other towns.”
Bristol is in line and actually below the average pay for most top positions among Rhode Island cities and towns, according to the state Department of Revenue’s Municipal Finance Division. The division released a survey last week listing the salaries of town managers, fire and police chiefs, finance directors and other administrative positions.
Mr. Contente, in his first year as town administrator, is paid $75,500 a year, sixth lowest in the state. West Greenwich’s top administrator is lowest at $67,188; Newport’s is highest at $178,500. Bristol’s highest paid employee outside of the police department — Finance Director Julie Goucher — made less than $105,000, about the median in the state for a position that is paid more then $150,000 in Providence.
Among East Bay towns, Ms. Goucher is paid less than her counterparts in East Providence, Portsmouth and Barrington. Only Warren pays less for the position, lowest in the state at less than $70,000. (Tiverton and Little Compton do not have finance directors).
The same follows for most Bristol positions, including police chief, fire chief, building code enforcer, tax assessor, and others, all of whom make a base pay that’s around or below the state average.
In fact, only Town Clerk Lou Cirillo (eighth at $80,302), Parks and Recreation Director Walter Burke (ninth at $72,250), Public Works Director Kevin McBride (ninth at $103,000) and Planning Director Diane Williamson (eighth at $86,155)— all of whom have been with the town for many years — are in the top 10 in pay at their respective positions. Police Chief Canario falls just outside the top 10 — 11th at $103,979 in base pay.