To the Editor:
Recently, I got a copy of the 2011-2012 budgets and went over the costs of some of the endless provisions and entitlements that greatly inflate the budgets that our democratic elected officials never mention that need to be greatly reduced and eliminated. When you consider our state economy, in which we now rank 45th for having the highest state and local taxation, 48th for unemployment and 50th for being the worst state for businesses to come to, which has resulted in untold hardships, these costly excesses need to be reconsidered.
We have before us two options: submit to higher taxation via creative taxation, such as supplemental taxes, or run government cost-effectively via privatization that would necessitate throwing out the democratic regime that is in the pockets of the unions that have been in control for over 70 years. In this commentary, I’ll examine the budget of the Fire Department as an example of the many abuses that mirror the excesses across the board, excluding, for now, the approximately $49 million school budget in which vouchers could cut by a minimum of one third.
The present budget is $13,182,871, in which there are 84 members excluding a handful of civilian personnel. Longevity bonuses are based on gross income in which at 25 years is as high as 14.5 percent, which averaged $5,232 per employee for a total of $349,171; the highest was $8,523. The alternative should be the equivalent of a one-week pay. Also, they receive 15 holidays for a total of $267,109 that should be reduced to six holidays for all town workers, including eliminating double holiday pay. Note: they receive a yearly clothing allowance of $1,800 in which in the first week of December they get that amount including the 15 holidays up front. Health care, including dental for a family plan is $19,506 in which they contribute $45 a week or $2,340 yearly. Note: in the private sector, it costs employers approximately $5,700 per employee contribution; the alternative is to only offer realistic plans that reflect the private sector. Next, we have what is referred to as “anniversary bonuses,” in which retirees receive 5.5 percent of what their salaries were for life above their pension amounts, which is approximately $3,000.
However, at one time they were allowed up to 10 percent, therefore others could be receiving twice that amount. As for pensions, there are presently 73 retirees and when you eliminate the 10 who receive under a $1,000 a month, the average of the remainder is $45,500 a year, in which many receive well over $70,000, excluding fully paid health care for life, that again is $19,506 with a spouse. The total amount that presently comes out of the budget to provide benefits and services is $2,212,980. The alternative must be realistic caps that reflect what the average town resident receives who had worked “all their lives” in the private sector – the real world. As for continued fully paid health care, we must take into account household incomes in which retirees would contribute toward their costs.
Also, as of July 1, 2010, town employees who had been receiving cash payments in lieu of medical and dental insurance, in which they receive half the present cost, can continue to be reimbursed but others after that date are ineligible. Yes, employees receiving health care via their spouses should be compensated but not to that degree, especially if spouses are in civil service. Excluding pension amounts, just the cost to provide continued fully paid health care for retirees with a spouse is approximately $750,000 over the course of their retirement at present costs. Note: because of ridiculous early retirements, many retirees work at other jobs in which they should contribute much more toward their health care, including present workers who also work at other jobs.
In addition to the above “call back pay,” if an employee works 15 minutes over their regular shift, they are paid one hour at overtime in which overtime should only be on the amount of time worked above and beyond 40 hours. Also, they receive 20 sick days that can be accumulated up to 200 in which they receive 145 toward their severance packages, in addition to accumulating up to 180 vacation days that can also be applied, in addition to 15 holidays, in addition to three personal days, etc. Also, at 20 years they receive 32 vacation days, which is the equivalent of three months and one week when you consider their shifts.
In closing, when you consider unnecessary life insurance policies, 12 percent pension contributions and another 6.2 toward social security “based on gross income” via minimum staffing requirements that cause overtime in the hundreds of thousands yearly, it just makes you want to cry. If you want to consider the alternatives, taxpayers must first consider the party they want to elect.
Peter A. Filippi III
Founder of The Johnston Taxpayers Association