Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sound Off About Public Workers' Benefits

The Record/Herald is running a multipart series entitled "Runaway Pay". The special report can be found here:

Runaway Pay

Here is a taste of some of the topics:

Can N.J. afford the rising cost of teachers and cops?

We're grateful to our police officers. We count on them. We're proud of them.

Our state is going broke paying for them.

Same goes for teachers. We wish we could afford them, but we're having trouble.

We're having trouble paying for New Jersey's nearly 500,000 public employees. Especially at their current salaries and fringe benefits. Especially with New Jersey's property taxes among the steepest in the nation and rising.

Unions drive a hard bargain

So when it comes to contract negotiations, the high-stakes poker games that largely determine property taxes, local officials know who holds the best cards: the unions that represent the majority of their employees, the Policemen's Benevolent Association and the New Jersey Education Association.

Cops and teachers who, a generation ago, were underpaid and overworked are now enjoying compensation and working conditions that are the envy of the private sector. Experienced patrolmen in North Jersey routinely make $100,000 or more, and public-school teachers can top out at more than $90,000 and typically pay nothing for health insurance throughout their careers.

Workers' health care causing pain

But in New Jersey's public sector, where nearly 78,000 employees of the state government and state college system enjoy free medical coverage for themselves and their families, things are moving at a much slower pace, if at all. Winning even the smallest concessions during contract negotiations is an uphill battle because of strong unions, tough bargaining rules and rigid state guidelines about employee contributions.

"I've said it in negotiations," said Jeff DeSimone, a Ridgefield Board of Education member. "In the real business world, a businessman couldn't stay in business paying these types of benefits."

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're gonna see some interesting discussions on this one.

Problem is, the questioned expenses side are not blogging.

Don't ANY teachers, college (state) admin. employees, and other state, county or municipal "professionals" have internet? Know how to blog? What is up with that?

Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places. The only debate I can get is from my kindly, uninformed neighbor who works (state ee) at Rutgers.

Pat

7/18/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Anonymous dreamtheaterr said...

Outsource cops to India!! Lol....

7/18/2006 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Richie said...

They are all to busy working overtime making time-and-a-half to spend time on the internet.

Go figure.

-Richie

7/18/2006 09:56:00 PM  
Blogger Space Ghost said...


Outsource cops to India!! Lol....


Clearly you've never encountered an Indian Cop !!

7/18/2006 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger Space Ghost said...

There is also the possibility that we might be over-policed. My small, semi-rural, peaceful town has a population of around 7400, but around 30 cops. Thats 1 cop for 15 people, which is very high (even granting that the township is somewhat spread out) for a very peaceful town.

7/18/2006 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger Space Ghost said...

I meant 1 policeman for 25 people. Here is where consolidation could help, although small towns are always concerned that they will get no coverage if they merge services with other towns.

And I love libraries, but does every town really need one ? [ although the costs of running these are probably pretty low]

7/18/2006 10:09:00 PM  
Anonymous dreamtheaterr said...

Space Ghost said...

Outsource cops to India!! Lol....


Clearly you've never encountered an Indian Cop !!

7/18/2006 11:01:22 PM

SpaceGhost, that was supposed to be a contradiction since the US cannot outsource cops, can they?

I have encountered Indian cops, and prefer them to US cops since you can bribe them for 25 cents for driving without a license - been there, done that.

I think state troopers here are the most lazy bunch of guys floating around - sipping coffee and giving out speeding tickets to meet their quotas.

I have heard that most guys who become cops here do so because they were bullied in school. Any veracity to this rumor?

7/18/2006 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger Roadtripboy said...

Space Ghost,

How did you do your math re: your town's population and its 30 police officers? 7400 people and 30 cops is 1 cop for every 250 people (roughly). How did you get 1 cop for every 25?

1 cop for every 250 people doesn't sound outragious to me.

7/19/2006 12:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NJ is wonderful. We have the
most expensive public education
system in the nation.

Along with our property taxes.
It's Wonderful.

You have to make a buck to live here but if your educated no problem.

Housing, no problem, suck it up.

We're close to the city.

Very cultural.

7/19/2006 06:02:00 AM  
Blogger RichInNorthNJ said...

"In the real business world, a businessman couldn't stay in business paying these types of benefits."

I like this statement, it pretty much sums up. Cuts and concessions are needed in order to rein this in.

I have heard that most guys who become cops here do so because they were bullied in school. Any veracity to this rumor?

No.

7/19/2006 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger delford said...

anom; We do not have to suck it up, as prices are falling now, but with your blinders on, and your mantra of prices cannot fall because we are close to NYC, you better get ready to start mopping up , as you are going to need a part time job, during the correction that is underway.

7/19/2006 08:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

258 teachers in Passaic, NJ make $90K plus. that's pretty insane

7/19/2006 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not bad considering they work 8 months out of the year. This, of course, includes all of the school holidays.

If you factored in the additional 4 months, they would be making $135,000 per year. This doesnt include their health benefits or the instrinsic value of tenure.

7/19/2006 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 12:16: How do you figure 8 months? Do you work seven days a week and all holidays? Are you SURE you actually work 12 months?

Pat said, "Don't ANY teachers, college (state) admin. employees, and other state, county or municipal "professionals" have internet? Know how to blog? What is up with that?"

I've posted several times in threads this week responding to the moola teachers are raking in. Metroplexual even called me lazy and an idiot after I reported making mid-$50k after 12 years of teaching and two MA degrees.

7/19/2006 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Space Ghost said...

roadtripboy, you're correct. Gosh, this is embaraskink. I have a few college degrees and a background in math and I can't do simple division.

I still stand by the larger point though that some towns are overmanned and that combining back end operations would help to reduce this.

Dreamtheaterrr, no way you can bribe an Indian cop about a license violation for 25 cents. Its more like 2-5 dollars and probably 50 if you're an American.

7/19/2006 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

insult to injury...
Probe of Farber to cost the state $75,000 a month. Why do i have to pay for her stupidity???


Prosecutor examines AG's role in traffic stop
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
BY RICK HEPP
Star-Ledger Staff
The state's investigation into whether Attorney General Zulima Farber intervened in a traffic stop to help her boyfriend will cost taxpayers at least $460 an hour, but they will not have to pay for the private attorney representing her, officials said yesterday.

Gov. Jon Corzine, whose office appointed the special prosecutor, said he does not believe there is a spending cap on the investigation.

"Not that I'm aware of," Corzine said. "We need to do the job efficiently and thoroughly and fairly and do it as expeditiously as possible."

Special prosecutor Richard Williams is trying to determine whether Farber won favored treatment for her boyfriend, Hamlet Goore, when he was stopped by Fairview police officers during a Memorial Day weekend seat-belt check.

Williams has the authority to appoint as many attorneys and investigators as necessary to complete the probe. He has set up shop in the Division of Gaming Enforcement's Atlantic City office and hired two attorneys and two investigators. Williams said he would pay the attorneys the standard rate of $175 an hour and the investigators $55 an hour.

That works out to $18,400 a week, if they work eight-hour days, and a little less than $75,000 a month for a probe that officials said could take several months. It does not include expenses, nor any compensation that Williams, a retired Appellate Division judge, may receive. Williams said that has not been finalized but it would not exceed the going attorney's rate.

A spokesman for Corzine said yesterday that state taxpayers will not have to pay for Farber's private attorney, Gerald Krovatin.

"Our full expectation is that the attorney general will pay for her personal attorney herself," said the spokesman, Anthony Coley. "We don't expect taxpayers will foot the bill for this."

A spokesman for Farber declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. In the past, the attorney general has repeatedly said she did nothing wrong after arriving at the traffic stop in her state vehicle with State Police driver. Officers at the scene unsuccessfully tried to void the two tickets they had issued, and allowed Goore to drive his unregistered vehicle to the Bergen County home he shares with Farber. Goore later paid $66 to settle one ticket and is contesting the other.

Some Republicans yesterday repeated their calls for Farber's resignation over the incident.

"Not only has the entire credibility of the Attorney General's Office been jeopardized, but now the taxpayers will be asked to foot the bill for what surely will be a costly investigation," said Assemblyman Guy Gregg (R-Sussex).

7/19/2006 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$75,000 for a month? Now, who was complaining about teachers? *lol*

I also wanted to comment on the article:
"Experienced patrolmen in North Jersey routinely make $100,000 or more, and public-school teachers can top out at more than $90,000."

Routinely without overtime & what is "experienced?" Three years? Five? Topping out in education is 20-25 years in most districts.

($90,000 *is* a lot, but most don't make that.)
DS

7/19/2006 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

medical benefits upon retirement are very much like an annuity that performs better than the stock market has performed over the last 10 years if you look at it this way. medical costs have been growing by double digit percentages so if you look at it that way what will the future value be of a typical gov. employee's medical benefits twenty years into retirement. jackpot. a cop started today at age 21 will be making 256,000 by 2026. I understand the risks that are involved but i bet there have been just as many accountants that have croaked at there desk from "stress of the job" long hours etc.

7/19/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Roadtripboy said...

Space Ghost,

I agree with you re: back-end operations. It seems like there is way too much "reinventing of the wheel" in a lot of these small northern NJ towns.

I don't have much sympathy for the property tax plight of towns whose residents refuse to do anything about this, however.

Also, how do we verify salaries of public officials? I think a lot of fantasy is going on about how much they are making. I'm not buying the 100K cops thing---it doesn't make sense to me. Cops don't make much in NYC and they truly risk their lives everyday. Why would a small, sleepy Northern NJ town need a big salary to "entice" cops into what is essentially a cushy job?

7/19/2006 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger RentinginNJ said...

I think a lot of fantasy is going on about how much they are making. I'm not buying the 100K cops thing---it doesn't make sense to me.

I wish it were fantasy, but it isn’t. Public official salaries are public record. Plus, it sounds like the Bergen Record did their homework here. I am also personally familiar with the contract the police in the last town I lived in recently negotiated (sleepy NNJ bedroom community). A patrolman tops out at $90K after 5 years plus overtime for a 36 hour workweek (3 12 hour shifts). I thought this was insane, but apparently it’s par for the course.

Most people aren't aware of this, so they have been able to get away with it.

Cops don't make much in NYC and they truly risk their lives everyday.

You get paid what you negotiate, not based on the risks you take. Newark cops don’t make this much either, although you could argue that they probably deserve it. Big cities know how to negotiate and don’t get pushed around by the unions like little towns do.

7/19/2006 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Roadtripboy said...

RentingInNJ,

Thank you for responding to my post. Where can I search public records to find out what public officials are paid in my county (or other counties)?

When I say that cops don't make much in NYC, I'm basing it on subway advertisements I've seen that state that starting salaries for NYC cops is $35K. You can make more than that a year temping. Police officers in NYC should be earning more than that.

However, this still does not make sense to me. How is it that police unions are able to negotiate high salaries in such sleepy towns compared to large cities like NYC and Newark? The cushiness factor alone should attract a great deal of applicants, effectively reducing the salaries. Unless of course there is a great deal of corruption in local governments---that is another story.

7/19/2006 11:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its not all about the $$$. There are other variables that bring value to a job that for some are invaluable.

Place a value on having the entire summer off and weeks off during the school year.

Place a value on comprehensive health benefits for life.

Place a value on tenure/job security.

Place a value on retirement in 20 years.

7/20/2006 06:30:00 AM  

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