When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says Governor Paterson’s proposed budget will force him to lay off nearly 12,000 city employees, he appears to ignore his role of negotiating 4 percent employees raises during a recession.

Expect similar finger pointing from other local governments and school districts, which agreed to employee raises that would be generous even in good economic times. For example:

  • In the Syracuse area, nine of 10 school districts recently gave teachers raises ranging between 3.5 percent and 4 percent, the average being 3.69 percent (here). The Syracuse school board ratified a four-year contract, increasing pay by nearly 17 percent.
  • Earlier this month, the Jamestown school board approved a contract with 23 percent in cumulative raises during a five-year period (here).
  • In Plattsburgh, the mayor has agreed to a tentative contract giving police officers 3.9 percent raises annually between July 1, 2008 and December 31, 2012 (here). The union agreed to increasing employee share of health insurance premiums.

In New York City, Bloomberg says Paterson’s proposed budget would create a $1.3 billion gap, forcing the layoffs of 8,500 teachers and 3,150 police officers and others–in addition to cuts he proposed in the city budget Thursday (here).

As Clyde Haberman observes:

Obscured in the discussion of layoffs, which the mayor said “appear unavoidable,” is the fact that the belts must be tightened now in part because Mr. Bloomberg had greatly loosened them. The municipal payroll carries tens of thousands more people than it did when he took office in 2002, another time of fiscal crisis. He began by reducing the work force. But like most of his predecessors, he then let the numbers climb. The cost of salaries and benefits has zoomed on his watch to $35.7 billion a year, the city’s Independent Budget Office says. That is an increase of 59 percent, more than double the rate of inflation.

As another story revealed this week, Bloomberg has added former campaign aides to the City Hall payroll at eye-popping salaries, including his communications director Howard Wolfson at $200,000 a year (here).

In a related development, the federal Bureau of Statistics today reports employee compensation in the state and local government sector increased at twice the private-sector rate during the 12 months ending in December (here).

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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