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Thread: Public Sector Employee Pay

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Public Sector Employee Pay

    This topic has seemed to be pretty hot, especially here in CA due in part to the scandal taking place in Bell, CA. For those that don't know, bell is a suburb of LA that is a lower middle class, working kind of town. Recently, the City Manager, Police Chief, and another administrator resigned over the anger of the pay. The City Manager was alegedly making upwards of $800,000 a year. We as California tax payers are on the hook right now for his CalPERS pension, which clocks in at 400,00 a year, based on earnings and duration. The Police Cheif's pay was around 400,000 and so on.

    Because of this scandal, we have been swamped with calls at my muni in regards to what each individual is being paid, especially the City Manager. Even the California League of Cities has gotten into the act in terms of damage control:

    http://www.sacbee.com/2010/07/30/292...crambling.html

    For us public sector employees, it is tough to measure what we do against a private sector position, but really, how much is too much? Are public sector employees getting a fair shake when it comes to pay? Are they paid too much, or too little (and hence remember the benefits). Is the "mob mentality" through movements such as the Tea Party (see i can be politically correct ) setting up government employees as the "bad guy". What say you?
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  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I feel like this is a red herring, but many like to use it as a reason government is either inefficient or bloated.

    I think that most public sector employees are adequately paid. Some under some over. I think that many are overpaid because they have the security in their job to be there for 10-20 years. This allows people to get raises, merit bonus, etc. I would guess that if you surveyed every government worker - local, state, federal, you would see a vast difference between each in terms of pay, education, and years in.

    Local government employees are probably underpaid, state employees are probably pretty fair, and federal employees are probably overpaid in terms of average compensation for a position. I don't see this as a problem of government, but as a problem of individual departments.

    Honestly, I doubt most government are really as bloated as the average citizen thinks. Services take man power to accomplish, and to get that done well it costs money to attract people.

    You can make an argument about government pensions - but I think most State pension systems are either screwed because they borrowed against it, or safe because they have continued to invest and grow.

    We are just more likely to be looked at because we are funded by taxpayer money. No one calls Verizon to tell them that their efficiency is bad and therefore they are paying more for phone service and they won't have it. The private sector is just as bad or worse - we are just an easy target for people that don't know better.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  3. #3
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    As a City manager, I am appalled by what happened in Bell. This was a clear rip off from the elected officials down. Unfortunately, the whole profession will be judged by the actions of a few. Personally, I am under paid for my position, but asking for more money when the residents of my community are having hard times, is not something I choose to do. I'm sure many private sector CEOs running 5 million dollar companies with 50 employees make more than I do.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I live in NJ which is California's counterpart on the East Coast in terms of fiscal and political dysfunction. The NJ pension system currently has unfunded liabilities of almost $50 billion due to a myriad of poor choices and gimmickry used to balance budget through multiple administrations regardless of which party was in power. Municipal employees were not required for the longest time to even contribute to the pension fund, employees were holding 2 and 3 positions at the same time that would earn pension credits (and a bigger retirement payout), the fund was projected to have an 8% rate of return annually but the past 10 years have seen an average return of just 2.5%. It goes on and on. http://www.app.com/article/20100725/...icials-concede

    Salaries can be ridiculous, the most abuse happens at the administrative level of the 600 school districts and the zillion boards and commissions around the state. As an example...the school superintendent from Keansburg which is a poor, underachieving district that receives subsidy funding from the state and has about 2000 students was retiring after 38 years of service in 2008 (she was a teacher for most of the time and superintendent for just a few years). Due to union sponsored contract her retirement take was to be:

    Pension 120K per year plus health coverage
    Unused Sick Day Payout for 235 days + Unused Vacation for 20 days 184K
    Term of service bonus-currently monthly salary x # of years served 556K
    Total Payout was 740K plus the pension

    It went to court, finally was settled for the 184K plus 50K in legal fees. The current governor has signed in a bill capping a max unused sick time payout at 15K and no more rolling over vacation time.

    Because of NJ's staggering number of government entities due to its nearly 600 towns and cities plus an overly complex state bureaucracy about 1 in 6 of NJ residents is employed in the public sector in some capacity. Although the wages are probably a little under what could be commanded in the private sector, the benefits and how much they cost out of pocket plus the generous leave and work schedule more than make up for that. I interned at a state agency last year and would go back if they offered me full time without having to think twice.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  5. #5
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Disclaimer: I'm an underpaid public employee


    Hink_Planner brings up a good point that when you hear about the underpaid public employees you do have to weigh the job security into the equation. I work mainly in economic and demographic modeling and site selection and know that I am grossly underpaid compared to my private sector counterparts but I also know that job security in this particular subset of planning on the private side is woefully low and folks jump from one commercial real estate firm or consultant to another with relative frequency. To me, it's not worth the trade off - I like the stability and predictability of my current gig.

    While underpaid/overpaid may vary at different levels of government, I think the level of education one has seems to be the biggest determinant of whether or not you are paid comparably to a similar private sector worker. And it's a negative correlation - the more education you have, the more likely it is that you are underpaid. Think of what a doctor or lawyer makes working for the state or federal government compared to a private firm! Sure, they may have significantly different goals and aspirations but the pay differences can be astronomical.

    For example, my best friend, who is a CPA with his JD and LLM went from making an obscene amount of money for somebody in their late 20s at a Big 4 accounting firm to making roughly 25% of that when he decided to take a policy job with the IRS. But he absolutely loves his job now and with the (basically) guaranteed raises and promotions he's not too worried (except for the high cost of living in D.C. and his excessive student loans). On the flip side, I know of administrative assistants, secretaries, and clerks (at various levels of government) who have nothing more than a high school education but make $60k or $70k because they've been in the same position for 20+ years and have gotten their guaranteed annual raises and the occasional increase in their classifications.




    On a slightly related note, one of the folks running for the nomination in the Republican primary for governor here in Michigan has a proposal to introduce legislation that would ensure public sector employee pay is within 5% of the private sector. If he gets elected, I look forward to my raise!
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  6. #6
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student
    On the flip side, I know of administrative assistants, secretaries, and clerks (at various levels of government) who have nothing more than a high school education but make $60k or $70k because they've been in the same position for 20+ years and have gotten their guaranteed annual raises and the occasional increase in their classifications.
    I would echo this. I know in my city those with a college degree are few and far between and save for the city manager the highest paid people are union members without degrees. It seems like local government is the one last safe place for those without degrees to make a healthy income.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

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    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    On the flip side, I know of administrative assistants, secretaries, and clerks (at various levels of government) who have nothing more than a high school education but make $60k or $70k because they've been in the same position for 20+ years and have gotten their guaranteed annual raises and the occasional increase in their classifications.
    My fair community has begun looking at banding to stop such problems. My admin. asst. makes the same amount that I do because she has been here over 20 years. Not sure I support the concept, but I have been told that it has worked in the military and in federal offices...
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    Disclaimer: I'm an underpaid public employee
    Same here.

    Retirement pay outs - we have a cap on unused sick time pay out.

    At the time of retirement or separation of employment, employees with at least three years of continuous service shall be entitled to receive payment, at the current rate of pay, for sick leave accumulated in the employee’s sick leave bank up to a maximum of sixty (60) days
    Oddball
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    Same here.

    Retirement pay outs...
    What's retirement? My locality did away with pensions long before I started working here. Now it's just a race to see how much money I can sock away in my 403(b) and time my "retirement" accordingly.

    Well, I guess if I stick around long enough, I'll get some sort of health insurance...
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  10. #10
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    On a slightly related note, one of the folks running for the nomination in the Republican primary for governor here in Michigan has a proposal to introduce legislation that would ensure public sector employee pay is within 5% of the private sector. If he gets elected, I look forward to my raise!

    How would this work for fire or police officers? Would they throw-out the nuns who teach for practically nothing but have wonderful results?

    Personally, I'd be more concerned about getting rid of the dead weight. I know there are a lot of people that I have to deal with in the public sector that are practically useless. Some actually cause a lot of additional work because they are inept (sp?).
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  11. #11
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Here there was a big thing about employee pay after a report by the JLF saying we weren't transparent enough, so we now have a section on our website called, "Transparency" where it has the salary range for each employee job. The local rag requested all of our salaries, dates of last raises, reason for last raise, but has yet to publish them.

    What I don't get is the people that feel entitled to know your pay because they're a tax payer and you work for them, supposedly. Or people that feel that because you work for government you should work for peanuts, like its a community service.

    Over the years, government has attracted workers with good benefits, reasonable hours and a stable work environment as opposed to high salary. With the recession, the benefits are eroding and the lack of attrition has kept some salaries too low or too high. I really don't think that government is in a much different situation that private corporations, we are just publicly funded, which makes all the difference.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

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