Did Fuzzy Math Cheat East Hartford’s Mayor Out of a $1,000 Raise?

by Categorized: Data, Employment, Government Date:

The mayor of East Hartford hasn’t had a raise in nearly five years. So a few weeks ago, the town council voted to boost the pay for the top job from $81,400 to a little over $87,000 – a jump intended to partly account for inflation since the salary was last adjusted in 2008.

Town officials justified the bump-up in pay by saying the cost of living had gone up 13.89 percent since the mayor’s last raise – a figure that seemed awfully high and prompted the nerd squad here at The Scoop to grab our holster-mounted calculators and dig into the numbers.

Bottom line No. 1: There’s a good reason the inflation rate sounded so high. While the pay was last increased in 2008, that raise merely caught the mayor up to the cost of living through 2005. So the action last month was intended to soften the effect of inflation for the years 2006 through 2012, and the town was calculating seven years’ worth of inflation, not five.

Bottom Line No. 2 – and the far more interesting bottom line: For the 2006-2012 time frame, according to The Scoop’s analysis, a miscalculation had the town using too low a figure for inflation, shortchanging the mayor by a cool grand and then some.

Here’s how the numbers break out. Warning: math ahead.

The council had approved boosting the mayor’s salary by half the increase in the Consumer Price Index “for the calendar years 2006 through 2012 inclusive” – which town officials said was 13.89 percent.

To get that figure, however, it appears officials compared the average Consumer Price Index for all of 2012 to the average CPI for all of 2006. But that’s not the correct calculation to account for inflation “for the calendar years 2006 through 2012 inclusive” – because doing so will leave out part of the hike in inflation during 2006 and part of the hike for 2012. Consumer Price Index figures are released monthly, and by using the average values for the years, the town more or less came up with a figure that represents inflation from the middle of 2006 to the middle of 2012 – meaning the mayor wasn’t getting credit for the inflation that occurred early in 2006 and late in 2012.

So 13.89 percent is the wrong inflation number. To get the right number, the town should have compared the Consumer Price Index figure from December 2005 to the figure for December 2012. That will capture the inflation for all 12 months of 2006 and and all 12 months of 2012 and all of the months in between.

Performing that calculation shows that inflation over those seven years pushed prices up about 16.67 percent. Raising the salary by half that amount would entitle the mayor to a salary, rounded, of $88,184. That’s $1,168 more than the council approved.

Council chairman Richard Kehoe told my colleague Suzanne Carlson that the town believed it had used the correct inflation numbers. A follow-up telephone call to Kehoe was not returned.

If the town decides to revisit the raise, it will be a windfall for Mayor Marcia Leclerc only if she wins reelection. The salary increase doesn’t go into effect until Nov. 11 – six days after this fall’s general election.

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