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    Brian Keaney

    Ask Me Anything Day II

    by: Brian

    Mon Jul 09, 2012 at 23:01:13 PM EDT

    It's been awfully quiet around here lately, and since flynniej15 decided to use a post to ask a question, I thought it might be a good time to have another Ask Me Anything Day.  As I said the first time around,

    In the couple years that this blog has been around, there have been many times people have used it to ask a question to which they simply didn't know the answer.  Crowdsourcing is a great way to get information, but I found that it's usually easier to go directly to the source.  The vast majority of people at Town Hall are only too willing to help when presented with a question or request for information.

    However, I recognize that not everyone knows who to ask or where to turn.  So, seeing as there are only a couple shopping days left and I still haven't gotten anything for all you good folks, I thought I would have my own Ask Me Anything Day.  Want to know when the Middle School will be paid off?  When your road is going to be repaved?  The number of arrrests made for drunk driving last year?  What the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is?  Ask away!

    Brian :: Ask Me Anything Day II
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    School Painting (0.00 / 0)
    I often walk thru the Oakdale School yard and noticed that the back of the school needs to be painted badly.  Which department does this fall under?  Is funding for a project like this factored into the budget or does it require a special request?


    Capital Budget (0.00 / 0)
    Painting the school does not fall into the regular school budget.  It is a capital item, and approved separately at Town Meeting.  This year the Town Meeting approved $250,000 for a number of maintenance projects like this at the schools and library.  For reasons I won't get into here (but which I expect to be a one time only occurrence) they were all lumped together, and we won't know until next year which will actually get done and which won't.  Painting the Oakdale School is one of these projects that may or may not happen this year.

    It falls under the new joint school department/ general government Facilities Department. - a community since 1636 and online since 2007!

    [ Parent ]
    Funding Overview (3.00 / 1)
    Is there a way to get documents that display all of the revenue the town makes and how it is distributed in different departments? I am sure I could go find one about the funding for the middle school, but it would be interesting to have a complete document to overview every bit of funding the town government has vs. how they use it. If nothing else it'll at least be educational in how town and government financials work.  

    here you go... (3.00 / 1)
    438 pages of financial data sliced and diced anyway you can imagine.

    FY2013 Budget

    If for some reason that link doesn't work, just go to the town's website.  Go to the Town Administrator page, Forms and Documents and you'll see it was posted on 2/28/12.

    Note this document contains compensation info for every town employee so it might address the DC question below as well.

    [ Parent ]
    Deferred Comp (3.00 / 1)
    Is the money the taxpayers are paying into the deferred compensation accounts of several Department Heads part of their listed salaries or is this a donation made by the taxpayers that is not listed in the town budget?

    Depends (3.00 / 1)
    It depends on where you look and to which department heads you are referring.  In the warrant that is sent out to all Town Meeting Representatives it lists the several salaries that are set by law (Chapter 14 of our bylaws) for several department heads.  These sums include things like longevity and certification stipends.

    On the other hand, if you look up the salaries of other department heads at the Town Reports, it would not necessarily include some of the perks they get.  For example, the School Department pays several thousand dollars a year into an annuity of June Doe's choice.  This is in addition to the paycheck she takes home.  These payments are not factored in for the purposes of determining pensions.

    All employees who work more than 20 hours a week, including department heads, contribute 5,7,8 or 9% of their compensation towards their pensions depending on when they were hired.  Additionally, employees hired after 1979 pay an additional 2% on earnings over $30,000. - a community since 1636 and online since 2007!

    [ Parent ]
    Median Incomes (0.00 / 0)
    What would you say is the median income of someone on the town payroll (including the school system) compared to the median income of a Dedham resident?

    half the answer... (3.00 / 1)
    You can demographic for Dedham here: Demo by Zip

    It shows median household income in 2010 of $82k (most likely based on AGI) so it's not really comparable to an individual.  However, that's a little higher than the state average and quite a bit higher than the national average.

    This site City Data has the 2009 per capita income of $38.8k, which seems reasonable if the median AGI is around $80k.

    You can do a little math based on the budget/financial data available to see how that compares to the public payroll data.  My gut says the two (public versus Dedham in total) are probably in synch, with the per capital for public possibly being a little higher overall.  My thinking that is is the case is because there isn't a huge variation in pay for the public payroll, at least not compared to the private sector.  There's a relatively low cap on city salaries and I'd SWAG the average for Dedham around $50k+, putting it above the per capita of $38.8.

    I'd be curious to see more analysis on this if someone takes the time and effort to dig deeper.  

    [ Parent ]
    another half answer ... (3.00 / 1)
    Based on the FY13 budget approved by Town Meeting.

    This would be only for Town Employees, NOT school employess (as I have yet to dig up an actual head count). In the budget it lists 250.5 equivalent employees. I added up all salaries and overtime budgeted numbers.

    250.5 Employees
    $17,271,940 in salaries/overtime/substitutes

    Average (not median) salary is $68,949.86

    [ Parent ]
    Good Info. To You and Eric C. (0.00 / 2)
    Does the avg. Town Employee salary of $68,949 include all the lovely parting benefits we give them?

    Like, Pensions, OPEB(free health care for life) Life Insurance, cars, gas, savings bonds, did I miss anything?

    When you compare Public benefits to Private, the Town of Dedham will blow them away, what do you think?

    How many private companies still have pension plans and those present and post employment benefits? They are slowly becoming the way of the Dodo Bird!

    [ Parent ]
    I sense a little resentment (0.00 / 0)
    It's really not apples to apples. Town employees get pensions but no 401k and profit sharing, town employees are more likely to be part time, town employees are more likely to be union, etc etc.

    [ Parent ]
    Call It What You Want... (0.00 / 2)
    Seems no one wants to admit that the Public sector benefits are now much better than the Private sector.

    We are paying way to much for post employment benefits no matter how you slice it.

    Recently, in the news, in the Town of Scranton where they have a $15,000,000 short fall, there Town Admin made an executive order to have all (or some)Town employee's pay be automatically reduced to the minimum wage!

    Now that's the way to take control of runaway, unsustainable spending!

    [ Parent ]
    I'm short on time however.. (0.00 / 1)
    It's good to see that some things never change. As usual, OakdaleLifer still hates town employees and manages to get at least 90% of his facts wrong (for starters it was the mayor, not the TA)... At least he's consistent..

    I'll get back to you OL if I have time and if I remember to. Never thought I would be wishing for a longer layover.

    [ Parent ]
    town employees pension (3.00 / 1)
    As far as I know, town employees pay into their pensions from the day they start work.  They can also add to the Massachusetts Smart Plan.  I would think most do.  Back in the day, private sector people couldn't understand why anyone would take town jobs like DPW, Custodians, Firefighters, etc, because the pay was low.  Not looking for an argument, just stating the truth.

    [ Parent ]
    Also (0.00 / 0)
     Public sector pensioned employees are not eligible for social security.

    [ Parent ]
    social security (3.00 / 1)
    Because public sector pensioned employees are not elegible for social security, most have second jobs that DO pay into social security so that they can collect that as well.  The problem is, because they do have a pension plan, they don't collect as much even if they've paid the same as someone who doesn't have a pension plan.

    [ Parent ]
    riiiight . . . (0.00 / 0)
    best reason on earth to fight against public benefits: I got screwed out of MY benefits by the private sector, so let's ALSO get the public employees, too!

    After all, what this nation REALLY needs is to get rid of the middle class wherever they work, so the world will be safer for the upper incomes

    See the trend? Upper quintile up; lower 4 quintiles down.

    [ Parent ]
    employee pay (3.50 / 2)
    I am an employee of the town, and there is no way that I make even close to $68,000.  In addition, I have put my own money to buy essentials for the office our budget runs out. I have furnished my office with desk trays, staplers, label making machine, pens, pencils, rulers, lined paper, labels, and even a desk top copier from my house.  Yeah, it may be stupid, but in order to do the best job I can, I needed those things.  That should be subtracted from my pay, so I make even less than what you insinuate I do.  I also put in much of my own time to finish things because of the heavy volume of phone calls and walk-ins.  And, if you think about it, since I'm a resident, I actually pay part of my own salary. I am fortunate to be able to collect Social Security if it will be available when/if I retire...highly doubtful because I do not make $68,000! I pay into my own pension with my own paycheck. I will not get free health care for life, and I purchase my own life insurance policy. Savings bonds?  What are those?!!  We really get no perks other than being proud of the town and wanting to help people with their problems.  

    I think it is well time to give town employees a break on what you think of us.  Not all of us sit around and do nothing. Not all of us are rude, dumb, or too busy to help.  Sure, there are some.  But overall - that's a minority. And if you think we should all be put down to minimum wage, you'll be paying more for me to survive.

    Please come visit me and see me work. And then I can tell you what I make and how hard I work.  Walk a mile in my shoes.

    [ Parent ]
    You Have Very Good Concerns.. (0.00 / 0)
    According to other posters, the avg. pay was $68,000, mainly due to the higher ups with the big paychecks. You sound like a hard worker. Comparing what you do and get paid for, versus a peer in the private sector is very similar. One thing, the private sector salaried positions entail a good amount of unpaid overtime, around 10-20 hours per week min. I know at Town Hall come 4:30, most workers are long gone.

    My main issue is with OPEB, if you work long enough and retire through the Town, you should start to receive OPEB as defined:

    Post-employment benefits that an employee will begin to receive at the start of retirement. This does not include pension benefits paid to the retired employee. Other post-employment benefits that a retiree can be compensated for are life insurance premiums, healthcare premiums and deferred-compensation arrangements.

    According to some Dept. contracts, some workers do get special benefits, like, bonds, car, gas, money for training, etc. If you look at all Town worker contracts you will see these nice hidden benefits. Unfortunately, not all Town contracts are equal. Have you ever noticed any Town individual or Dept. contracts listed on the Town's website? Can you guess why?

    Several years ago the unfunded OPEB liability was a high as $125 million dollars, now it's down to about $55 million, the biggest debt Dedham has ever had. As far as I know, private companies on the most part do not have or offer OPEB to their retiring workers. This amounts to millions of dollars which I think Dedham can not afford and in comparison to the private sector, Dedham workers should not be receiving in my view.

    Over the years, the private sector had higher paying jobs with good benefits, but those days are long gone and now the public sector is above pace with them.

    When you add the OPEB monies on top of ones salary over their career as a Town worker, it will be somewhat higher than a similar position in the private sector.

    [ Parent ]
    You missed Ballons and Lollipops.. (0.00 / 0)
    As well as the free trip to Disney World for all employees (full time only) on the 10th anniversary of their employment date. Let us catechize your grievances one by one.

    Many moons ago when public sector employees were paid well below that of their private sector counterparts, these employees were given munificent pension packages as an incentive to take these jobs. That however is not the case today. Employees today, depending on when they were hired pay a percentage towards their pension. The more recently the hire date, the larger the percentage paid. As you can see from Brians post the percentage has increased over the years and will most likely continue to do so again with future hires. Your own statement that the unfunded liability is down $70 million shows that as older employees die off, new hires are paying down the debt as well as funding their own future retirement. I haven't looked into this, I'm using your statement.

    Health care:
    The percentage employees pay into their insurance has increased over the years. Again OL, this generous package was intended to off set low pay. Along with higher percentages contributed, employees pay higher co pays due to a new plan that saves the town money.

    Life insurance, cars, gas and savings bonds:
    If you know who's getting these goodies why don't you name them so everyone will know where their tax dollars are going.

    As far as your hero, the MAYOR of Scranton, his actions will only cost the taxpayers money as well as hurt people. Glad your not giving our TA advice.

    Last thing. I know you like to bash the police and fire but you of all people should be happy to know the last contract shows over four years a pay increase of 0% first year, 1% second year, 1% third year and 2% last year of contract. What did the TA and other Dept heads take those same four years. There's some research for you for over the weekend. I put that in there because I think it's the "bigwigs" you refer to when you metion parting benefits.


    [ Parent ]
    Town Report? (0.00 / 0)
    Does anyone know where, online, the Town Report is?
    As I remember, each year the town published the Town Report, which would have all the reports for the year from every town department and school system.


    [ Parent ]
    Median incomes (0.00 / 0)
    Sorry it has taken me so long to answer this one.  I tried to get a spreadsheet with all the salaries, but failed in that effort.  Instead I turned to the Annual Town Report which lists the salary of every employee.  The most recent Town Report I have is from 2008/2009 so it is a few years out of date, but as it turns out that is a good thing, as you will see below.

    The Town Reports breaks up the salaries into four categories: the DPW, the Police Department, the School Department, and then everyone else.  I included everyone who made over $15,000 that year.  I didn't want to include the high school kids who made a few thousand dollars a year working at the Pool or one of the playgrounds, or someone who worked some very part time hours, which would skew the numbers downward.  The figures I used also include overtime and, for the police, the details they performed which are paid for by the company or organization which hired them and not the Town (plus a 10% bonus to the Town, which doesn't factor into this calculation).

    For the DPW, the average salary is $74,343.  For the police, $110,445 (if you exclude details, it is $82,800).  For the School Department, $54,088.  And for everyone else, the average salary is $62,063.  When you average all 705 employees who made more than $15,000 together, you come up with an average salary of $61,395 and a median of $61,285.  This is slightly less than cebonvini's back of the envelope calculation above, but also a few years older and includes school employees.

    According the US Census Department, the median household salary in Dedham from 2006-2010 was $80,865.  So, for the average DPW worker, they made $6,522 than the median household.  The average police officer made $29,580 more. School Department employees made $26,777 less.  And, finally, the average general government employee not already mentioned made $18,082 less.  All together, the average town employee made $19,470 less than the median household took in during those years.  An apples to oranges note, however: this is comparing the average single employee to the median household income, which many include more than wage earner.  

    Also, since I had all this data, I thought I would play around with it a little bit.  Here is a graph that shows just how many employees fall into each $10,000 range.  Remember that those who earned less than $15,000 were not included.

    As you can see, 54 people (8%) made more than $100,000.  Of them, 35 came from the Police Department, eight from the schools, two from the DPW, and the rest came from the bulk of Town employees.  Most were department heads.  You will also notice that one person made more than $180,000.  Actually, he made more than $200,000.  This police officer's base salary was $125,277, he earned $16,224 in overtime, and made $93,440 on details.  His total salary of $234,961 was nearly $90,000 higher than the Chief's and made him, by far, the best paid employee in that year.  

    Again, I apologize for the delay, but the data entry took some time. - a community since 1636 and online since 2007!

    [ Parent ]
    the swallow (0.00 / 0)
    with what is a swallow most likely to be laden? worship the god who laughs.

    Have you ever been to Scranton? (3.00 / 1)
    I have. It is not nearly as glamorous as "The Office" makes it out to be. That's what you want for Dedham?

    The idea of paying long-term employees, many of whom have graduate degrees (teachers, librarians) minimum wage is incredibly depressing.  I think you are looking at the cost-benefit analysis from entirely the cost perspective.  

    I also think that private sector benefits are getting worse.... but profits are not down, and executive packages are insanely generous.   That all together is not a coincidence.  It's sad that the response is "let's make things worse for town employees" instead of looking more critically at how badly typical employers are treating their own staff.

    Have you ever been to Scranton? (0.00 / 0)
    I have. It is not nearly as glamorous as "The Office" makes it out to be. That's what you want for Dedham?

    The idea of paying long-term employees, many of whom have graduate degrees (teachers, librarians) minimum wage is incredibly depressing.  I think you are looking at the cost-benefit analysis from entirely the cost perspective.  

    I also think that private sector benefits are getting worse.... but profits are not down, and executive packages are insanely generous.   That all together is not a coincidence.  It's sad that the response is "let's make things worse for town employees" instead of looking more critically at how badly typical employers are treating their own staff.

    Public Sector vs. General Public (4.00 / 1)
    The comparison of how much a town's employees earn compared to the general public interests me. And here's a caveat I would throw into the discussion: the differential between median public wage and median population wage is meaningless without proper context.

    I say this because if you look at municipal government structures across the board, there's a lot of uniformity - you have to pay for teachers, police, fire, public works and several other critical pieces of infrastructure that no town can do without.  So you end up with municipal payrolls that look pretty much the same from town to town in terms of the percentage of town funds that are allocated to certain functions. At the same time, the towns themselves have TREMENDOUS variances in terms of the earnings of their residents - Wellesley, Weston, Dedham, Stoughton, Chelsea, Everett ... the incomes and professions of residents vary wildly, but they all need their snow cleared and their kids educated.

    This is not to say that there are not also wild variances in  the relative efficiencies of municipal governments - just that the simple comparison of median incomes between public employees and overall residents will not, in and of itself, provide any immediate measure of efficiency. We should expect that in Wellesley - where an inordinate number of hedge fund principals and CEOs reside - should have a higher median income for its general residents than its public employees.  In Dedham, we would probably expect to see the numbers be very close, but without a full analysis of the job types held by residents versus job types held by public employees, the statistical comparison of median incomes would be pretty meaningless on its own.

    The only way (3.00 / 1)
    to analyze what the general public in town does for work is to look at annual town report that is published that states what every adult resident in town does for work and what they are registered to vote as. We called it the "nosy book" in our house growing up but if you go to town hall I am sure they will know what you are talking about. That will give you an excellent sample size to work with.

    [ Parent ]
    Very Insightful Points... (0.00 / 1)
    It would be nice to have a comparison for the same job types of public versus private. You brought up a good example, lets say the Town of Weston was used.

    The avg. home price is $1 million, with avg. salary of 150-200k. Should their Town workers be paid what similar towns pay their workers or should it be based on the cost of living in Weston, homes prices, etc?

    [ Parent ]
    Why (0.00 / 0)
    isn't there a bunny in East Dedham when the whole idea is to benefit the arts center in East Dedham? How about one on the front lawn of the old Avery building.

    Walk over to the old Avery today (0.00 / 0)
    For a surprise :)
    Plus, there are still 6 or so bunnies on the way....

    I have a question (0.00 / 0)
    What is wrong with people? Specifically, what kind of person cuts the ear off a rabbit?  

    Probably (0.00 / 0)
    the same kind of person that came up with the idea to cut off a foot and make it into a key chain to be carried for good luck.

    Keep an eye for anybody around town with a ceramic bunny ear key chain!

    [ Parent ]
    what kind . . . (0.00 / 0)
    Someone with an acute case of Lepus Auriculaphilia?

    [ Parent ]
    Ipads (0.00 / 0)
    Ipads for the high school sophmores? Does anyone else not realize how horrible of an idea that is?


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