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Schenectady uniform officers retire to big raises

Overtime unavailable, other public workers are unable to cash in

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It’s the holy grail of pension maximization: getting enough overtime to retire at full salary, rather than the half-salary usually promised to people in the state retirement system. But some Schenectady police and firefighters have managed far more than just a full-salary retirement: They ended their careers with a pension far higher than their final salary, and the amounts are crushing the city financially. Schenectady is now spending one-twelfth of its budget on pension payments. ...


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comments

wmarincic
September 1, 2013
5:19 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

I wish I had a dollar for every time I was with my friend who is a Schenectady Cop and he gets a phone call to come in. We could be out eating dinner with our families and he has to get up and go because of his particular job. If your daughter is being held hostage in a house by a drugged out lunatic with a gun, I doubt you are worried about his overtime.

gina99
September 1, 2013
7:35 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

This Mayor will be judged by his lack of performance. One of many problems he is in denial on.

cfield
September 1, 2013
8:13 a.m.

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Barbara Blanchard and all the other haters should try to risk their lives for our fellow citizens and then we can talk $$&$. Our Firefighters and cops are worth every penny.

mezz3131
September 1, 2013
10:06 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

First of all, the fire dept has a much better retirement than the police.(based on final single year and extra .6% for every year past their 20) Also, the police don't get more overtime closer to their retirement. It is on a rotating list within each position. Take a look at how many Detectives go back to patrol and get on the same rotating list with the one year rookies. I believe the fire department OT is offered to senior guys first. If it is not in writing then it is just agreed upon by the rank and file. FOIL the numbers for both and see how the OT is distributed. That being said, the department has "reduced staff and cut back on overtime considerably". Has the call volume and crime gone away? Hire more staff, less overtime. It's well know by administrators and city leaders that it's cheaper to hire overtime than hire more staff but they won't admit it publicly. Get tougher on criminals and code enforcement and maybe fire and crime calls will go down...

Will1960
September 1, 2013
10:22 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Are the Police and Firemen worth gaming the system and the taxpayers to make more money in retirement than when they were employed? There has to be some reforms enacted to prevent this blatant pension padding or Schenectady will end up like Detroit. Unfortunately, no one has the conviction to stand up and take on the unions that benefit from the status quo.

reader1
September 1, 2013
10:39 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

A few facts:

Crime is down and has been going down for the past several years in several major categories. That being said, I don't think any of the administrators would have preferred to reduce their numbers down from almost 170 to approximately 145. But, the budgets are determined by the Mayor and the Council and they base their decisions on what taxpayers can afford.

RE: the overtime - the decision by legislators to allow officers to inflate their pensions was ill advised and short sighted. Having said that, I can understand the logic behind the pension building. Public safety employees leave service typically in their late 40s and mid fifties. Given the average life span of 80 years old, a retiree has about 25 or 30 years to live off the pension (and eventually SSI) - a pension which is eroded annually by inflation. And, they leave government service and enter the job market competing against younger and to many employers more desirable candidates.

The way to address this problem would probably have entailed some adjustment to their ability to build up their investments, and or, training for a post public safety career. But, that didn't happen. And, while the pensions are a tax burden, they were negotiated and are contractual. The manner in which public safety contracts are negotiated needs an overhaul and if done by real experts, the employees, retirees, and taxpayers may very well wind up better off.

birmy
September 1, 2013
10:40 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

The math is not explained well. I know that the newest Tier enacted just a couple years ago allows for police and fire to only use 15% of their overtime towards their final average salary which is generally their last 3 years of service. That is simple. If your base salary is $60,000 and you make $25,000 of overtime then only $12,000 of it can be used towards your final average salary.

The Gazette writes but does not cite an example...

"Even the state booklet on the retirement system suggested employees would probably never hit the 20 percent income limits, which stop employees from maxing out their pension with just one year of extreme overtime. 'A 20 percent increase from one year to another is unusual. Therefore, most Tier 1 members are not affected by this limitation,' the booklet said.

I am uncertain what a 20% income limit is? I don't think it means 20% of base pay. Because why would a police officer have a base pay of about $63,800 and then earn $36,200 in overtime and end up with a pension in the 80's? The Gazette could of explained how much of the $36,200 applies to the final average salary for pension purposes. I do not believe the answer is 20% of $63,800.

Then it gets more confusing when you read, "Depending on their tier in the retirement system, they can only increase their salary by 10 to 20 percent each year, so they have to build up overtime pay over the years, pay that could more than double their pension."

I am interested I the Math of it. As far as if the City can afford it is another question.

reader1
September 1, 2013
10:41 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Pension reform has already occurred to some extent - the new Tier system which limits the amount a pension can be grown. There is still room for improvement.

twohands
September 1, 2013
1:22 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Then we have Schenectady's 'mad bomber' felon who sits in jail collecting a nice check that he managed to inflate by being union and management at the same time!

kmiac
September 1, 2013
11:13 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Kathleen Moore......don't you have anything better to do with your time?? Why must you try and turn everything into a negative when it comes to the fire and police.....god forbid you need them one day! Your writing is terrible, I wouldn't trust you to proof read my 4 year olds alphabet. Get a new gig and start writing about things that matter

mezz3131
September 2, 2013
10:47 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

I have nothing against Councilwoman Barbra Blanchard and I feel sorry that she had a stroke and is disabled and requires caregivers. But I find it funny that she and her husband are bashing the Fire & Police Departments on overtime and pensions when she is taking advantage of the system herself. She has been out disabled for a year or more and has left a vacant council seat that could have a vote. As quoted in Kathleen's article "Blanchard is also receiving pay as a councilwoman until the end of the year, when her term expires. Blanchard, who is now disabled from a stroke, must rely on that money to help pay for caregivers." So what has been said before one should not throw stone at glass houses.

wmarincic
September 2, 2013
10:50 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

BTW, this story seems more about Barbara Blanchfield and what she "doesn't get". Ask Barbara how many "shots fired" calls has she been on or how many times has she had to pull a weapon for her protection, maybe you should ask her how many drugged out violent felons she has chased through unlit backyards at 2am. I wish when I retired I got and additional $1000 per month in pension paid by someone else. The only pension I will get is the one that I saved and totally paid for by myself. Stop your whining all of you, you act like little children.

mezz3131
September 2, 2013
10:52 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

A Major Fact: Crime is down? Walk down Becker St., Emmett St., Chrysler Ave and Crane St. area, etc. etc. etc. at night with a couple bucks in your pocket. Or better yet, let your kid ride his/her bike down one of those streets. I don't think so! Truth is, statistics can be deceiving just like politics and newspaper reports.

reader1
September 2, 2013
5:17 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

mezz - Fact - the statistics are generated by the reports done by the police officers. Crime is down in several major categories. Could someone be victimized if they walk down the street at night - sure, but that is two completely separate issues.

reader1
September 2, 2013
9:47 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Not that I am defending Kathleen Moore, but to say that because the city has been deteriorating then you shouldn't report on other issues doesn't make sense. Clearly, this pension story is not a revelation - the pensions have been an issue for a while. And, the latest news was that the pension payments by the City have decreased. Interestingly, the one point the article makes no one has commented on is that people who are unable to build their pensions are more likely to struggle in retirement. Again - another reason to reform the system.

And, when you talk in glowing terms about the suburbs - keep in mind, were it not for people coning into the city from those prospering areas the drug markets would be a lot less lucrative.

mezz3131
September 3, 2013
7:06 a.m.

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Someone should suggest to Barbara Blanchard and her husband that if they need extra cash to apply for a Food Benefit Card and then illegally exchange the food benefits for cash. Kathleen Moore is OK with that. (Clearly the Gazette editor is too).

reader1
September 3, 2013
10:28 a.m.

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There are people who game the system but it is hardly accurate to blame the tax burden on people on welfare. Sure, that's part of it - but - certainly not all of it.

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