Counting Cronies

If you’re inclined to look at budget numbers to see where your tax dollars are going, you’ll probably think to check how much money government employees are being paid.  And how many people are being paid.

Last fall, during the great Upper Makefield proposed tax increase protest, a comparison was made between what Upper Makefield residents pay, per capita, for all township salaries, and what Northampton and Lower Makefield residents pay.

Making a similar comparison, using 2011 budget figures (which may go over or fall short of the actuals, of course), but using New Britain and Bedminster townships instead, here are the results.

Bedminster:

  • Population 6,574
  • Square Miles 31.1
  • Total all salaries $977,581
  • Per capita cost: $148.70

New Britain:

  • Population 11,070
  • Square Miles 15.2
  • Total all salaries $2,043,162
  • Per capita cost: $184.57

Upper Makefield:

  • Population 8,190
  • Square Miles 21.5
  • Total all salaries $2,526,955
  • Per capita cost: $308.54

That’s quite a difference.

I have no doubt there’s some baseline; some things you may want to have whether you have 20 residents or 200.  But is there a metric somewhere to justify employee levels?  Based on population, roads, proximity to urban areas, how many cops does a town need?  When do you go to the residents to pitch the need for another hire?  How do residents know that existing employees are underworked, worked just right, or being stretched and need reinforcement?

At the national level, some reformers have called for a federal employee cut of 5% or so.  Snort.  Try 30% for starters.  Doesn’t have to be across the board.  Eliminating whole agencies (Dept. of Education, Dept. of Energy are 2 popular targets), or reducing them so they do the job they were mandated to do and no more (the EPA comes to mind) would be a start.

One of the problems with government, at all levels, is that they rarely shed jobs when the “business” shrinks.  When the county government presented its 2011 budget with a nearly $9 billion dollar shortfall, they seemed proud of 2 things: taxes weren’t increased, and no one was laid off.

The latter is not something to be proud of.  It is one of the primary reasons that government always grows, never shrinks.  And government always presents this decision the same way: we won’t be cutting services to residents.

In the private sector, if say a local retailer has to let an employee go, he won’t say “well, some customers will just have to go without”.  He’ll say to the remaining employees “you’ll have to work harder”.  Why is this a strange and alien message to send to government employees?  Afraid they’ll all just walk off the job in a snit?

Hey champs, you’re not a jobs bank.  If you are, let me know, because I know a lot of people who could use one!

Sources: population counts from USA Today 2010 census report

Bedminster 2011 budget

New Britain 2011 budget (Preliminary)

Upper Makefield 2011 budget

I included all line items marked ‘salaries’ ‘wages’ ‘pay’ ‘overtime’ (or, in Lower Makefield’s case, ‘personal services’).  I excluded all deferred comp, health & pension benefits, and professional services.

I used New Britain and Bedminster since they are so close to Upper Makefield in terms of population and square miles.  I would have liked to include Solebury, but I could not find their budget online, which is kind of surprising.  Maybe I just missed it.

If you’re interested, here’s my worksheet, which includes comparisons to Lower Makefield, Newtown Township, and Northampton.  Upper Makefield beat all townships I used for comparison in per capita salary costs.

If you find any errors or omissions, let me know!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I tried to only include salaries, not outsourced services, professional services, etc. It’s not always easy to tell them apart! I excluded them for all townships, when they could be identified.

    It’s not necessarily a pitch to get UM to outsource more. I think some of the salaries are very rich, and in some cases there are more people than might be warranted. But why bother with what I think? The numbers speak for themselves.

    Thanks for the comment, and welcome!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Bacteria on September 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    The Upper Makefield Public Works costs are greater than used in your calculation because much of the work is outsouced (Privatization Report, page 2). They pay contractors quite a bit to trim trees, landscape, sweep streets, plow snow, and God knows what else.

    Reply

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