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Posted on March 26, 2012 at 9:44 AM by PattiAnn Schultz
A lot of conversation is going on right now in Albany over pension reform. This is a concern that the Town Board faces as well as we begin to look at our 2013 Budget. Pension and health care costs are the driving force behind the large increases in dollar amounts in our budget in these past years.
The amounts of increases in pension cost are alarmingly disproportional in the public employee unions compared to private industry. The taxpayers of New York and Webster need pension reform (and soon!) if I am going to be able to control the rate of increase in our town budget. The current legislation passed by the Governor and State representatives will not help the Town of Webster with this year’s budget numbers or in the years to come.
It is simply amazing to me that our State legislators passed a 2% property tax cap yet pension costs are going up at the rate of 28% in 2010, 37% in 2011 and 18% in 2012. They want the Town Board to work magic on our town budget and stay under the tax cap but they fail to realize how difficult that is when percent increases are happening like this.
I am not writing this column to disparage the employees that currently work for the Town of Webster as they have all worked hard and have earned the pensions that are coming to them. We need to change the formula on how the payout is given for how many years. I am talking about changing the way we do business, in the pension area, and how we fund the pension system. We need change in the current pension system and we need it now.
Pension costs here in the Town of Webster have gone up a lot in the past four years. For example, for police officers and the Chief, the cost in 2009 was $486,000.00 and have risen to $ 645,000.00; an increase of $159,000.00 for 2012. Although there was a reduction in staffing levels in the police department in 2012, we still have to pay for the 31 officers in 2012 – that is just the way the system works.
As for the other 143 employees in the town, costs in 2009 were $436,000.00 and went to $1,250,131.00; an increase of $814,063.00 which has had a staggering effect on the town budget. When you have increases like this the Town Board has two choices, (1) raise taxes or (2) cut services like we did last year. Either choice is not one the Town Board likes to make.
The ads I see on TV make me laugh because they make it seem as if the sky is falling on current employees when in reality all conversations are about future employees and the plans that they might receive and the costs to them and the employers.
The reality is that current public employees enjoy better pensions than most other hard working folks, and the cost of those negotiations from the past are creating a large financial burden on the town that is becoming increasingly difficult to bear. It is time to cut taxpayers a break and find more cost effective ways to provide pensions to future employees.
I can see a repeat of last year’s budget process where the Town Board will be scratching and clawing to balance the budget. As in past years, everything will be on the table: cutting services, programs, materials, hours of services and anything else that might save the taxpayer money to hold the tax rate down.
Maybe I am wrong but from talking to residents here in town hall when they come to pay their Town, County or their School taxes, they are tired of paying some of the highest taxes in the nation coming from Monroe County. The leaders of the taxing entities governing Webster must stop this taxing madness now. Webster residents cannot afford any more tax increases regardless of the excuses put forward to get that tax increase.
As always, if you have any questions about your town government, please contact me during regular business hours at (585)872-7068; or email me anytime at email@example.com
Ronald W. Nesbitt
Webster Town Supervisor