The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

March 21, 2013

State troopers reap overtime bonanza

One’s pay for year surpassed governor

PITTSBURGH — Three state police troopers racked up so much overtime last year that they were paid more than the head of the state police or the attorney general. One trooper picked up almost $100,000 in overtime, so he ended up getting paid more than the governor.

All three troopers retired by the end of the year, a state police spokesman said.

For state employees, making all that money in the final year of their working career has an important benefit in Pennsylvania: It boosts the pension benefits they will receive for the rest of their lives. Those benefits are based on an average of the workers’ final three years of employment.

Concerns about the public costs that follow when governments allow workers to run overtime in the waning days of their careers have prompted “anti-spiking” legislation in a number of states, and it is one of the under-the-radar reforms tucked in the pension plan proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett to avoid making $500 million in employer contributions this year.

Three of the nine northeastern states do not include overtime in the calculation used to determine how much a worker gets in pension benefits, according to a study completed by researchers commissioned by the Connecticut General Assembly. New York and California passed anti-spiking legislation in 2012.

Taking steps to prevent employees from getting increased pension benefits by working overtime could save Pennsylvania $456 million between 2019 and 2023, according to an analysis of the governor’s pension reform plan that was completed by the accounting firm of Milliman Inc.

The governor’s plan recommends that pension payments be calculated based on the final five years of earnings. Corbett’s office also has proposed that the state adopt anti-spiking measures that would limit the amount of overtime that would count towards an employee’s pension.

Records show that 295 state police troopers were paid more than $100,000 last year.  Some of that overtime is almost certainly due to the imbalance between the number of troopers who have been retiring, compared with the number hired to replace them according to the union that represents state police troopers. When the governor announced funding for three new state police cadet classes, the department said it was operating with 4,191 troopers, 480 short of its approved complement.

But only three troopers – Robert Buckley, Van Keys and Timothy Flickering – were paid more than $150,000 in 2012, according to government databases on the state’s open records website: pennwatch.pa.gov.

Buckley was paid $182,972, though his base pay was $87,045.

Acting Attorney General Linda Kelly was paid $151,367 last year. Col. Frank Noonan, the head of the state police, was paid $142,314.

For comparison, there were 37 state corrections officers who were paid more than $100,000 in 2012, including one guard who was paid $135,436, even though his base salary was only $63,218.

In the Department of Public Welfare, 14 registered nurses were paid more than $100,000 in 2012. The highest paid RN was paid $147,828, even though the nurse’s base salary was $71,939.

Stephen Herzenberg of the Keystone Research Center, an economist who has been critical of the governor’s pension reform measures, said that individual cases do not necessarily justify wholesale changes that reduce pension benefits for all workers.

 “If there is documented evidence of real abuses that led to outsized pensions, we should look at it,” Herzenberg said.

The solution may not require changing the pension rules for all workers, he said. If the situation is that a department is short-staffed so workers are being told to work overtime, then it makes no sense to deprive workers of that compensation from their pension calculation, he said.

In Pennsylvania, government retirees do not get regular cost-of-living adjustments, so any move to diminish benefits would require close scrutiny, he said. “Computing benefits over a longer period of time is just a way of lowering benefits,” Herzenberg said.

A state police spokesman said that in many cases, troopers with special training will have greater opportunity to pick up overtime.

“Specialized positions within the department inherently have more overtime associated with the positions. An example of this can be our SERT (Special Emergency Response Team), our Forensic Services Unit members and K-9 handlers, to name a few. This is because these positions are of an ‘on-call’ nature in addition to the regular shifts worked,” said state police spokesman Adam Reed.

Even troopers who primarily serve on patrol duty will have opportunities to pick up overtime for speed enforcement, DUI checkpoints or to monitor construction zones.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • amd 31 New filtration system targets mine water

    Orange stones surround a black plastic discharge pipe at the Rock Tunnel abandoned mine drainage site.
    There is a rusty tint to some nearby water and mud, too.
    Soon, though, a new filtration system, consisting of shallow vegetative wetlands, a settling basin, concrete trough, buried limestone and aeration component, is expected to help return those elements back to their natural appearances.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Richland to weigh speed study

    A group of Theatre Drive residents has convinced Richland Township’s supervisors to look into the costs of a special traffic study weighing whether their residential neighborhood’s current 35 mph speed limit should be reduced.

    July 30, 2014

  • Border battle lingers: Adams Twp. wants court to become involved

    Adams Township officials are asking the Cambria County court to once again become involved in its long-running boundary line dispute with Richland Township.

    July 30, 2014

  • FRANK BURNS 31 Officials urge creation of crime watch groups

    State Rep. Frank Burns told the crowd about the night his life changed forever.
    After leaving a AAABA game, the then-16-year-old Burns was surrounded by three males, “dancing” around him like boxers and taunting him.
    They attacked and he was on the ground. He took a powerful kick to the face.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Injured officer back on duty

    Two people were injured in a three-car accident Tuesday evening when a truck failed to yield to a Johnstown police officer who was rushing to assist another patrol car, police said.

    July 30, 2014

  • Grimm, Michael Child rapist to report to jail Monday; medical concern cited

    A Johnstown man set to pick a jury today on charges he sexually abused two boys, entered a guilty plea in Cambria County court Wednesday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIFT JOHNSTOWN ‘They got it done’: Lift Johnstown recognizes pair for trailhead work

    Rob McCombie and Steve Coy showed up Wednesday at a Path of the Flood Trail spur in East Conemaugh dressed like they were ready to get to work.
    Instead, a group of community advocates were waiting there to thank them for the hard work they’ve already put in.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local News in Brief | Philly man arrested for selling heroin

    July 30, 2014

  • Conemaugh Valley board tackles security, pupils’ instruction time

    The Conemaugh Valley school board on Wednesday agreed to improve security at the high school and increase instructional time and add art classes at the elementary school.

    July 30, 2014

  • Wine tasting, picnic will aid animals

    Briar Valley Winery and Bedford County Humane Society are hosting Yappy Hour 2014 at the vineyard grounds on Stein Road in Everett.

    July 30, 2014

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads