Superintendents circumvent state pension law

By Deirdre Fernandes
Globe Staff  
July 07, 2012

By seeking and winning salary ­increases, school superintendents across the state have maneuvered around a new law aimed at closing a loophole that had allowed employees to boost their pensions by counting fringe benefits as part of their salary.

The loophole, closed as part of the 2009 pension reform law, was famously employed by former University of Massachusetts president William M. Bulger, who successfully included his housing allowance in his pension calculation, enhancing his retirement pay by $17,000 to $196,000 a year.

The change hit superintendents, among the highest paid public ­employees, hard, because they can no longer include annuities, insurance payments and travel allowances in their pay to calculate their pension. In the years since, many have sought ­increases in their base salaries to offset some of what they stood to lose.

But critics of the salary increases say the superintendents are sidestepping the intent of the law, which was meant to create more transparency and save taxpayers money by reining in pensions.

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