Pay getting out of hand

The wages of the five highest-paid employees in the city of Johnstown each topped more than $78,000 for 2015, with the most going to police investigator James Rodecker, who was paid $91,124. The wages were higher in Gloversville, where the five employees paid the most each earned more than $90,000. The highest pay went to fire battalion chief David Rackmyre, who made $100,416.

The base salaries of Rodecker, $58,360, and Rackmyre, $59,841, were both greatly inflated by overtime pay – $28,118 for Rodecker and $20,456 for Rackmyre – along with longevity pay and sizable buyouts of unused holiday time. Most of the top earners in the two cities had similarly high levels of longevity pay, holiday pay or buyouts for unused time off.

The earnings are out of proportion with the economic reality in the two cities. Johnstown has a median income level of about $41,000, and Gloversville has a median income level of about $34,000. The levels are well below the national median, which was about $53,600 in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many people living in the Glove Cities do not have the income to support the crushing burden of local property taxes, part of which are attributable to the high cost of municipal salaries and benefits.

To help lower inflated wages, the common councils in both cities should do everything they can to do away with buyouts of unused sick, personal and holiday time. These buyouts should be eliminated from labor contracts. In addition, overtime only should be allowed on a pre-approved basis and only granted in cases of emergency.

In the private sector, overtime is rare in many industries because private-sector employers know there often is a less-expensive option than paying time-and-a-half for extra work hours.

We acknowledge that state mandates, including the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law, have made it difficult for local officials to take back contract perks. The Triborough Amendment mandates that all public-employee labor contracts remain in place after a contract expires until a new contract is agreed to by both sides.

If the unions are unwilling to reduce their own benefits, perhaps they can be convinced to cut them for future employees not yet on their rosters.

The municipal earning levels are dramatically inflated from where they logically should be. Members of the public should wake up and demand something be done about this business-as-usual problem.

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