REALLY WANT TO PAY MORE CITY TAXES?

June 10th, 2016

City Council may have a hard time voting to raise the hourly rate of pay for workers in the city to $15 an hour.

However, none of its 41 employees is paid less than $15 an hour. Indeed, only one ($17.68) is paid less than $20 an hour.

Council members are paid, according to the 2016 budget, $80,133. The Council President Kevin Kelly gets $90,133.

Meanwhile, over at Mayor Frank Jackson’s office $15 an hour would be a joke. (See all below).

Eight in his workforce of 31, including the mayor, are paid more than $100,000. That doesn’t count what some are taking home in retirement pay.

The mayor’s office is a little kingdom.

It now seeks a 25 percent increase in the city pay tax from 2 percent to 2.5 percent. And you can bet suburban cities will want increases too.

It’s time to produce a radical opposition—a Carl Stokes or a Dennis Kucinich. WE NEED IT BADLY.

We have a bunch of sloths on Council and even worse at the County level. Reform has become go along government.

Corporate control has never been as powerful as today.

I’ve been detailing the enormous spending by the city and county for sports facilities and other high-cost developments now for a number of years. The PD and so-called TV I-teams and the alternative Scene piddle around with this minor and that minor league rip-off as if they are protecting the taxpayer. In reality, they’re giving cover to the real big deal robberies.

They have no nose for the real smelly stuff.

It will only get worse as print journalism slips into real insomnia. The Big Sleep is upon us.

It’s so easy for Council members and the Mayor to add a half percent to the 2 percent income (payroll) tax. It’s like water off a duck’s back to them. Not to people trying to scratch out a living, however.

The mayor’s office alone costs taxpayers $2,248,307 a year. The mayor receives $140,888 and 56 cents but we dropped the pennies from the $2.2 million figure.

The high rollers at the mayor’s office aside himself:

Darnell Brown: $133,381.
Martin Flask: $128,162.
Valerie McCall: $127,582.
Monyka Price: $120,000.
Edward Rybka: $125,459.
Ken Silliman: $133,381.
Natoya Walker Minor: $120,000.

Of the 31 employees in the mayor’s office, the city reports, six are ticketed to other payrolls, including finance, community relations, utilities, and economic development. We included them on the mayor’s payroll.

The mayor’s staff is owed 6,486 hours of overtime; 13,668 hours sick time; and 650 hours of “comp” time. To be paid later presumably.

Why executives as Silliman have 734 hours of vacation time and 1,265 hours of sick time and McCall 538 hours of vacation time and 1,246 hours of sick time makes one wonder. Don’t they take any time off? Vacation time is necessary as a time to wind down. Are they that important that they can’t take a day off?

Or are they building time owed that will have to be paid when they retire? That’s my bet.

The other aspect of these figures are that they force the city to pay more in retirement benefits as these high-priced execs build up time that gets paid for retirement.

AND SOME OF THEM HAVE ALREADY RETIRED AND TAKEN THEIR BENEFITS. We call them “double dippers.”

This definitely is part of the resentment built up among ordinary citizens against, in particular, government employee unions.

It’s a powerful tool, especially of Republicans, against government.

This is especially true as government—here both city and county—raise taxes that make direct hits on lower income people.

They think little of doing it.

Jackson, of course, wants to raise the payroll (income) tax now. In the past few years property taxes, and an array of sales taxes from the sin tax for sports facilities to cigarette taxes for the arts, have hit hard at lower income residents. At the same time RTA is raising rates and cutting services. And property tax money is being erased for many downtown high-price housing, hotels and other businesses.

The inequality at the local level is hardly noticed by anyone.

Here Patrick O’Donnell (with Gabriel Baird) of the Plain Dealer wrote about the large bonuses taken by police officers upon retirement in 2010. I’m repeating it since the informative article gives more than a hint about how the city pays:

CLEVELAND, Ohio—Retirement comes with a large going away check for top police officials in Cleveland, often topping $200,000.

Many patrol officers and other employees walk away with a large bonus, too.

In the last five years, 10 city employees—all police—received separation payouts of $200,000 or more. The highest, almost $319,000, went to former Deputy Police Chief Lester Fultz in 2008.

And 35 employees topped $100,000, according to city payroll records obtained by The Plain Dealer through a public records request.

The list is dominated by police. Out of the top 30 payouts, only one went to an employee outside of the police department—former utilities Director Julius Ciaccia, who was paid $163,000 when he retired in 2007.

Huge payouts for outgoing employees are rare in the private sector, but public employees often have contracts that let them accumulate unused sick and vacation time over several years then cash them out at retirement. This pay is not a bonus and is separate from their regular salary and pension payments they have earned.

In Cleveland, all employees generally receive 120 hours per year of sick time that can be accumulated over several years. Employees are paid for one-third of that time when they leave, at their average pay for the last three years even if much of the time was banked years ago at lower pay.

Employees are also paid for accumulated unused vacation and holiday pay at retirement at their last pay rate.

“It’s not uncommon for people to have 2,000 or 3,000 hours of sick time on the books,” said Safety Director Martin Flask (Now on the mayor’s staff). The city has no limit on how many hours can be accumulated.

Only about a third of private employers allow sick time to be rolled over completely from one year to the next like Cleveland does. A little less than half of private employers allow unused vacation time to be entirely rolled over into the next year, according to a survey by the non-profit human resources association WorldatWork.

Though 91 percent of employers let people cash out unused vacation time at retirement, that survey found, most have limits. About 80 percent offer no benefits at all for unused sick time.

Since 2005, over 1,000 Cleveland employees have taken advantage of the city’s rules and cashed out their unused time. The list includes workers from laborers and lab techs to police commanders and mayoral aides. Their separation pay ranges from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It also includes Ciaccia, now executive director of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District; former Service director Mark Ricchiuto who took home $100,400; and mayoral assistant Darnell Brown who got $71,000 when he retired in 2008. Mayor Frank Jackson rehired Brown as chief operating officer.

But what drives police payouts higher is accumulated compensatory time and pay practices that started decades ago, but have since changed.

Until the mid-1980’s, Cleveland did not pay police overtime in cash. Instead, the city offered compensatory time that could be taken later or banked to cash in at retirement. At other times, police would be paid their straight rate for overtime worked and bank credit for half the hours as compensatory time.

The city’s contracts with the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association and Fraternal Order of Police allow that time to be cashed out at retirement at the officer’s current pay, even if accumulated years prior at a lower rate. Hours banked as a patrol officer could be cashed in at retirement at captain’s or commander’s pay if the officer reached that rank.

Since 2005, seven police commanders have received an average of $191,000 at retirement; 11 captains at nearly $105,000; 29 lieutenants at $61,000; and 50 sergeants averaging nearly $54,000.

[Note: Vacation and Sick Time below are in hours owed. JH]

roldo 160610 salary table

The Mayor’s office owes 6,486 hours of vacation time, 13,668 of sick time and some 650 hours of comp time.

roldo 160610

By Roldo Bartimole…

4 Responses to “REALLY WANT TO PAY MORE CITY TAXES?”

  1. Norman Lange says:

    Another good article. Also historic to those who noticed Roldo agreeing with Republicans on one issue. I don’t have a problem with the salary levels but accumulating overtime etc are real budget busters. Of course the public pensions are a ticking time bomb

  2. Arnie Berger says:

    If my comment is valid it is so damaging to the health of our public service retirement plans that I hope someone who knows will reply “Not so. That abuse was ended years ago.”

    The payment of accumulated sick time and overtime in the year of retirement can double the last year’s income. Since state pensions are based on years of service x average pay, and average pay is based on just the last few years, this practice can give a 20 to 30 percent boost to retirement income. A nice bonus to retirement plans already much more liberal than corporate plans (and inadequately funded).

    I know await someone who knows saying “We don’t do that any more.”

  3. Garry Kanter says:

    It’s just taxpayer $, so everybody wins!

  4. Thanks for these comments.

    I also received personally this comment from a county employee:

    Saw your latest column. If the city’s operation is like the county’s, at-will employees don’t get overtime pay, they (we) get exchange time when they work more than 40 hours a week (which if you have evening meetings or weekend events to attend piles up fast). My guess is that one reason it looks like Ken Silliman or Val McCoy don’t take any vacation is that they use their exchange time when they take time off.

    Here is part of the explanation received from the city:
    Separation Benefits are due to an employee who terminates from City
    of Cleveland employment.
    1. All earned, unpaid salary
    2. All earned, unpaid longevity
    3. Conversion of accrued sick leave (on the basis of one-third of
    accumulated sick leave hours times the average of the highest
    three years of pay). This benefit is paid out only for employees
    who retire from the City of Cleveland.
    4. Pro-rated vacation for the current year
    5. Accrued, unused vacation from previous years
    6. Unused compensatory time.

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