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
  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 19, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 19, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 19, 2014

  • VIDEO | Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 19, 2014

  • Denne, Williams & Stanton Records hearing scheduled

    A Cambria County judge will consider complaints filed by two Johnstown residents seeking documents related to the city’s municipal waste water operation at hearing at the end of this month.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sen. Bob Casey Casey targets heroin

    The heroin trade has brought addiction, death, violence and theft to Johnstown and other Pennsylvania communities.
    Figuring out how to deal with those issues is difficult for local, state and federal officials.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drive-in to open with high-tech projector

    Drive-in movie theaters and the term “state of the art” seldom share the same sentence.
    But that will soon be the case for the Silver Drive-In, it’s owner said. The Scalp Avenue site, often marketed as a nostalgic summer night escape, soon will boast a high-end projector capable of displaying the latest and greatest blockbusters in razor sharp high-definition, theater owner Rick Rosco said.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sheetz work underway

    Earthmoving is underway at Richland Town Centre for a nearly 6,500-square-foot Sheetz store.
    And the real estate broker marketing the land says a 3,000-square-foot retail building will be built next door.

    April 18, 2014

  • Smith, Shakir Mosi Police seize heroin, money in Prospect

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. Friday. An arrest warrant has been issued for the man be­lieved to be the owner or renter of the two homes raided.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Comedy night targets serious problem

    Animal advocates are using comedy to take aim at a serious problem.
    The third annual Funny Fundraiser to benefit the Nardecchia Spay and Neuter Fund will be held at 8 p.m. May 16 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

    April 18, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads