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All public employees must pay

Published: Sun, July 18, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

The 33 percent number must have felt like a jolt from a Taser.

After all, if the 33 percent can be applied to one set of public employees, why can’t it become the standard for all such workers?

There’s no reason why.

Indeed, the number has the potential of rallying the public in its campaign to force the public sector to tighten its belt and reassess spending priorities.

On July 6, the four members of the Mahoning County Board of Elections (two Republicans and two Democrats) took the unusual — and brave — step of requiring all employees, including themselves, to begin contributing to their public pensions. The keyword is begin. According to Deputy Director Joyce Kale Pesta, employees of the board of elections, like most county government general fund employees, have not had to pay any of the 9.5 percent employee’s contribution. That’s because county government (read that, we the taxpayers) picks up the entire tab — the 9.5 percent, plus the employer’s contribution of 14 percent of every salary.

It is only in the sheriff’s department where the employees actually invest in their own retirement.

But, with the board of elections now requiring its employees to pay 3 percent of the 9.5 percent worker’s contribution, the door has been kicked wide open for all other departments and agencies to follow suit.

Costs skyrocketing

Recently, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the amount of tax money spent on public pensions in Ohio and guaranteeing retirement payments for government workers increased by nearly a third over the past six years.

The cost of supporting the pension funds for state and local government workers will be $3.5 billion this year, The Plain Dealer reported. The number is expected to rise in the coming years when more baby boomers retire.

Government retirees in Ohio earned a median pension of $21,804, according to an analysis by the newspaper. The average for private sector workers, including Social Security, was $18,390.

“States like Ohio offer far better plans than anything that is available in the private sector,” said E.J. McMahon, a pension expert at the Manhattan Institute in New York, which analyzes government policy.

Ohio’s public pension systems generally require workers to contribute 10 percent of their salaries to the funds. Taxpayers contribute between 14 percent and 25 percent, the newspaper reported.

The rest comes from investment earnings.

That’s why the action by the Mahoning County Board of Elections carries such an ominous message: For the first time ever, public employees are being told in no uncertain terms that the taxpayers are mad as hell over the ever increasing cost of supporting them and aren’t going to take it anymore.

“It’s huge. I think it’s a good start,” said board Chairman Robert Wasko, a Democrat, of the 33 percent pension contribution and other concessions exacted from the board’s employees.

Indeed, next year workers may be required to contribute the entire 9.5 percent.

Why should a private sector worker whose retirement fund has been frozen, or whose contribution to a 401K plan is not matched by his or her employer, have to contribute to the public pension retirement system?

As has been noted in this space ad nauseam, the time of reckoning has arrived for those who slop at the public trough. Being able to retire from your cushy job while you’re still in your prime and then receive a pension and full health-care coverage for the rest of your life reveals just how disconnected the public sector is from reality.

A right?

To make matters worse, the retirement system is viewed as a right that must be financially sustained at all costs. All over the country, public pension systems are in trouble and the public is being told it has no choice but to pay more in taxes to bail them out.

If your anger hasn’t yet reached the boiling point, here’s a little tidbit that will have you ... joining the Tea Party movement:

Our poor, overworked, under appreciated public employees have not had pay raises lately, and so the keepers of the public purse — elected officeholders — decided to let them off the hook on the pension contributions.

There’s just one problem: Having the taxpayers pay the 9.5 percent is tantamount giving the workers a raise.


1NoBS(2688 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

And not only that (the above post) but deSouza crossed the picket line to work, yet he gladly takes the pay and benefits the Guild got for him.

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2northsideperson(366 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

IF it is paid by the government as "deferred compensation", then it is a tax saving strategy. Pay due to the employee is taken before it gets to them, and is posted to their retirement account. On retirement, withdrawal comes at a lower tax rate. In this case, it only appears that the government is paying the employee's share, but it's actually the employee's money all along.

If this is the case, making the employee pay 1/3 of the retirement amount means that either their total pay will be reduced by this amount, or it will be paid to them and then withheld (which doesn't really change anything other than the tax rate and appearances).

Whether the salaries should be reduced is another issue.

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3badeepster(124 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

So here we are again, for at least the 20th time in recent months, that we have the Bertie deScumbag rant against public employees pensions. The story as I see it is here comes this guy off of whatever boat from whatever impoverished land he came from--he decides to be a two-bit columnist for a rag newspaper in a nowhere town and is now jealous of the public employee. Maybe you should have become one yourself Bertie and then you and any fellow deScumbags wouldn't have to cross picket lines to buy bread. Here's a thought--do away with public employee pensions and put them on Social Security with everyone else. It'll be bankrupt within two years. And Bertie, why do public employees pay into Social Security without being able to collect any? Maybe it's THEM who should revolt. See you at Aldi's Bertie!

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4repeaters(313 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago


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5UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

The state has a 8 billion dollar wakeup call coming in the next two year budget. The cuts have to be done to government employee compensation & pensions, welfare, medicaid, and the unfair inner city school funding where the big bucks are being spent. All new government employees should join the social security system. Taxpayer can't take any more tax increases.

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6Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Get your facts straight before you group ALL public and/or state workers together. Some groups pay well over that 10% you talk about. My taxes at married 0 are lower than my friends who claims married 2 so don’t say all groups don’t pay their share. Veterans who fought for this country and came back and were hired for a public job will never see the SS they paid while fighting for this country. You go spouting off at the mouth from behind your keyboard not reporting the whole truth just to rile up the liberals. I agree with steelhead and I hope when you need him you will think twice before spending the taxpayers dollars he gets paid with and give CPR to yourself. All Law Enforcement and Fire and EMT’s deserve every penny they are paid and then some.

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7badeepster(124 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Good to see the anti-deScumbag sentiment. Maybe the next time Bertie or one of his ilk NEEDS a public employee (i.e. policeman, firefighter, welfare worker), they should turn a blind eye towards him. How's that Vindy pension holdin' up Bertie? See you at Save-a-Lot!

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8crl(18 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Right on steelhead, Cowboyfan and badeepster! Bertram needs to get his facts straight on this issue. He reports only one side and focuses on the small percentage of cases where school superintendents are rehired and double dipping. Truth is most public retirees are not collecting huge pensions and as you all point out, they EARNED what they are getting. And what they earned and should rightfully be getting in Social Security, they will never see.

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9palbubba(794 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

These comments are why the problem will never get solved. They believe they are entitled. Maybe they missed the news that while federal employees got a raise, the earned benefit of Social Security was frozen. Guess they also missed the article on the pregnant lady and her baby that died due to EMS personnel turning a blind eye on her as they were on "break".

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10Silence_Dogood(1663 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Bert do you have any balls left in your shorts? Are you a coward? Are you not a Man?
For the last ten years you have written article after article about public workers and not once have you spent so much as HALF A DAY with these same workers. So how the f@#$ can you know what they are worth. Spend a day in a squad car on the south side on the midnight or afternoon shift. You run into a burning building and save a child.
Stop talking all your BS and step up to the plate and take steelhead up on his offer. "What about it Bert-you follow me around for a week, and then I'll follow you around for a week. Then we can both write our stories for the Vindicator and let the folks decide who is worth the money."
Or are you just a bag of hot air, a blowhard at heart.

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11Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Federal workers are not the same as State and City workers. My friend has not received a raise in at least 3 years if not more, but every year their healthcare goes up. I know many EMS and Fire and they would give all for a stranger.

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12apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Like clockwork, as soon as Bertram mentions trough feeders and their extraordinary compensation packages, two of Boardmans finest trough feeders, and what should be during working hours, make their grand entrance to assail Mr. DeSouza for exposing the slop. One of the Boardman employees is double dipping thanks to his support of Calhoun during the recent trustee election. Bertram is of course correct. The electorate is tired of watching the trough grow ever larger while their tax bills continue to get higher and their compensation packages shrink.

Time to reign in the fabulous trough, especially in Boardman where the state audit pointed out that Boardmans employees make $20,000 more than peer communities. Boardman trustees, instead of asking for yet another levy, should ask for compensation give backs to make up for the shortfall in revenue. 20% cuts would generate enough money to get staffing levels right in line with where they should be about 3 million.

Want to see Boardmans salaries? Go to...


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13Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Many in the private sector took a financial beating and pay cuts plus loss of pension funds from the recession . Why should government benefits be recession proof ?

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14sknirak(120 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Stan: Why should government benefits be recession proof? Good question.

My guess is that since the the taxpayers are footing the bill for payrolls and perks, they ought to have some say in the matter. Specially when as you said, the private sector took a beating plus pay cuts and some lost their pension funds. Their financial "well" is running dry for them. Isn't the median wage for this valley about $26-$27K? That's before taxes. Income tax on that at this time is about 15%. Then sales taxes, property taxes and levies in each community could take another 10% or more off that income. So $ 26,500 less 25% leaves you with about $19,900 after taxes. Then factor in house/rent payment, car payment (maybe), food and clothing plus car maintenance, how much is left? And who knows what other expenses a person has? Healthcare and medicines? Makes me think gov't bennies ought not be recession proof.

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15apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

So what Mr. Double Dip. Executives and managers at most private companies make more money and have better benefits than the workers. Only in Boardman and other public trough jobs is that dynamic messed up. Leave it to the public sector unions like in Boardman to have the police chief make less than some of the workers. You and your cohorts complained about the former chief making around 90 grand but never once complained about you buddies making over 100 grand.

Here's a tip. Get an education and then you too can make more and have better benefits. Or better yet, stick your nose up another union teachers behind and alert him to his ratings on ratemyteacher so that he can get them removed and keep that information from the voters. Then when he gets elected, maybe he'll pay you back with a nice cushy job to enable the double dip. Oh, sorry, you already did that.

Bertrams benefits are irrelevant. He's got that college degree and could likely get a job pretty much anywhere. The same goes for the other management and educated people at the Vindy. The jealousy of the uworkers isn't too flattering.

Why would I attend a trustees meeting. They are all controlled by Smith now and all is hunky dory. As usual, the only thing they know is tax increases and more spending. Got to keep the trough flowing for the feeders including double dippers. Hey, maybe you can be the computer coordinator and triple dip? They can claim that your time as a cop and zoning inspector is 15 years of experience.

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16badeepster(124 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Apollo--as I sit sweltering today--I want to thank you for the heartiest laugh I've had in weeks. Bertie could get a job anywhere? Haven't seen anything that funny since Rodney Dangerfield died. deScumbag is a hack and he's at his true level-- a declining rag newspaper in one of the most depressed towns in America.

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17SickofJimbo(140 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Bottom Line Public Employees that do not pay their 14% share of PERS are essentially avoiding paying taxes (Fed;State;and local) on that 14% that is not part of the gross on paycheck. i.e if an employee is making 85K a year in the public sector and no PERS deduction that = 98K in private sector or 98K in public sector w/ 14% PERS deduction.
In summary( all things being equal) the county could pay employees 14% more; deduct the 14% PERS employee contribution from employee gross and the Fed, state and local govts will be able to tax the 14% added to the gross.
BOTTOM LINE: County pays the same; employees take home the same(less the taxes that are being avoided); local governments get more revenue.
IRONY; The mahoning county employees are avoiding the taxes that pays them. Ooops I am wrong they are not funded by (Fed state and local taxes) so they don't give a damn.Why don't they care about other govt. revenue streams? My only guess is they want to overpay an employee @98K per year and only show she is making 85K. That is more important to them then doing what is right.

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18northsideperson(366 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

SickOf: that money is taxed, although it's taxed at withdrawal time (probably a lower tax rate) rather than as part of salary at deposit time.

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19SickofJimbo(140 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago


Public employees that do not pay their share of PERS are skirting the taxes period. The rest of the public employees that pay their 14% share (like they should) and the rest of the private sector are taxed both times. Why are Mahoning county employees so special/arrogant. What you have said is the same propoganda that has spewed out for years. I will not "drink the Kool-aid" and buy into it. The above assesment is correct and it should be abolished immediately. It is being done to skirt paying taxes (fed, local and state) I'm even think it is (or should be) illegal

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20apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Kool aid is indeed what they try and sell. Kotheimer is now a double dipper from the golden trough. He so badly wants to justify it to any and all who will listen. Does he want us to believe that zoning work is hard?

I used to go to trustees meetings KK. Speaking to the township crowd and that's mostly who attends those dog and pony shows, isn't nearly as effective as Vindy.

A little payback from Calhoun for the good work you did on his ratemyteacher ratings removal.

Sickofjimbo is correct about the tax dodging the public sector does with the pension contributions. Another scam the electorate can't take part in.

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21ytown1(398 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

What most people fail to realize concerning these benefits and others like these being discussed here is that they are given out behind the average persons eyes when raises and other normal compensation items would be complete political suicide if given out when times are tough. Such as now.

Let me be a little clearer, if they handed out the norm 4% a year increase for every year on a contract negotiated in these economic times, the electorate would be marching in the streets in protest asking for their heads in a recall.

So in the past when most of us were not informed by the usual investigative reporting, or what we have today what amounts to an information overload, which by the way the political hacks and unions just hate, they would give out items such as this as paying the employees contribution of 9.75% along with the 14.25% PERS amount already given in earlier contracts. Which still amounts to a raise, plain and simple in my book.

There is no way, we as taxpayers can continue to maintain this living in such largess as theses same pensions also increase every year due to how the overtime is manipulated in the last three years before retirement. Along with the balloon payments for accumulated vacation and sick time. Which should be use it or lose it, which is what the rest of the working people have.

And I do not want to hear the lies about if you were to call off sick it would cost us more? If you are sick? How can you do your job at 100%? Stay home and do the rest of us a favor. And the reason Vacation time is accumulated is there is way too many days given every year so who would use it all if you already have plenty of time off and could save it for a time when you know you will get paid much more for every hour not taken now? Bad idea to begin with.

The PERS is in already running at a deficit despite the taxpayer paying most if not all of the contributions toward this benefit along with the health care issues, the public employees expect the taxpayers to ante up another 325 million a year to keep it solvent for the near future? I say near only because it is a moving target and they do not know that far into the future.

With that being said, I recommend all of the other unions, which do not even have these lucrative contracts as the public workers, to go on a wildcat strike until the private sector companies pay the same compensation packages as their public counterparts.

Does anybody think any of these companies would be left in business afterward? Some food for thought, Huh KimK? Call up the UAW and see how there last negotiations went. Do you think they would have given up anything if the dire facts were not evident to their impact on the viability and sustainability for the future.

I know the Public versus Private will be pointed out but you can not continue to payout more than you have coming in, whether that be in profits or taxes.

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22ytown1(398 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

One more Note:

The latest levy is DOA, what happened to the 2.0 Mil Safety Forces Levey that passed recently? Voters are taxed out, ask the Tea Party loyal. It applies to Federal, State and Local Taxes.

We are taxed out and need to get all of this under control.

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23JME(802 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

"I know the Public versus Private will be pointed out but you can not continue to payout more than you have coming in, whether that be in profits or taxes."

Well said ytown1.

These Public sector workers believe the recession does not apply to them. They want to enjoy the wealth when everything is great, but don't want to trim the budget when times are bad - even though the taxpayer must do so.

The taxpayers have had enough of the Public sector employees believing that the taxpayer is there for them. It's the other way around!

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24apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Poor KK, thinks the Vindy postings have less impact than the 10 people who attend the dog and pony show meetings. KK, why don't you tell the people how much your pension is and then tell them how much you are sucking from the trough as a double dipper. Can you hear the great sucking sound taxpayers?

Calhoun and KK want you to believe that the poor ratings Calhoun had on the ratemyteacher website weren't valid. After I told KK about them, he reported them to Brad and within a few hours Calhoun had them removed so the voters wouldn't see them. This is the type of sunshine Boardman trustees don't like. They only want positive sunshine, not the real stuff. That's they they don't like their salaries here:


Maybe they can get enough dumb voters to pass this levy so that more double dippers can be hired. Another little known fact is that the "freeze" doesn't really mean there aren't step raises being handed out. Only at the Boardman trough can police and fire make well over 100 grand factoring in wages and benefits. Not to mention the ridiculous perks. They have no problem spending taxpayer dollars frivolously.

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25apollo(1227 comments)posted 5 years, 10 months ago

Don't be fooled into thinking these new targeted levies are really going where they tell you it will go. It's a scam. They'll move general fund revenues to compensate. The solution to the financial mess is simple really. They need to cut wages and benefits by 20%. That frees up almost 3 million for the manpower shortage. 20% is exactly what the audit says they are overpaid.

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