Public Safety Arbitration Award Reform Needed

A recent Scranton Times-Tribune article – In region’s tough times, it pays to be in a municipal union – explored the disparity between the generous pay increases granted to public sector unions in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton since 2000 through arbitration awards versus the median pay for full-time male workers in those same cities.

The article and subsequent editorial – “Leapfrog takes cities over cliff” – features comments from PEL Central Executive Director Gerald Cross on the issue:

Mr. Cross said police and firefighters benefit from the arbitration process, which is insulated from the “market conditions” that other workers must live with. In the meantime, arbitrators regularly point to higher police and firefighter salaries in other cities to justify award raises in the cases before them.

That produces an ongoing “leap-frog effect,” with arbitrator repeating the method over and over and producing ever-higher salaries, he said.

“It isn’t against fire and police,” Mr. Cross said of his opinion that the law should change. “The discussion is how can we continue to afford public services, and continue to restrict municipalities abilities to pay for them … No one argues that a firefighter’s job isn’t valuable, a policeman’s job isn’t valuable. It’s a risky job.”


The Quiet Boom and Potential Bust of PA Townships

Recent data indicated that the once booming Pennsylvania townships are seeing troubling signs including rising service costs and tax revenue that is either declining or flattening. The challenge for townships may soon be the same issue facing distressed cities: how to provide quality services at a price that taxpayers can afford.

Read PEL’s latest commentary The Quiet Boom and Potential Bust of PA Townships

The Scranton Times Looks at the Public Pension Problem

The Scranton Times takes an insightful look at municipal pension problems in a recent series that included interviews with PEL Executive Director Gerald Cross.

Click on the links below to read the series:

Newspaper’s investigation finds municipal pension plans underfunded

Moosic taxpayers haunted by 2007 decision to double pension benefits

Clarks Summit police chief earns more $113G between his salary and Carbondale pension

Carbondale boosts pension perks to get three cops to retire

Program lets public employees work while amassing additional retirement nest egg

Newton Twp. police chief boosts pension amid lax oversight

Scranton’s pension plans on fast road to ruin

Experts mixed on borrowing to shore up pension funds

Pension funds can be fixed, but cost will be high

In Lackawanna, not all plans are doing badly

Beyond Act 47: A Call to Action

Reforms to Act 47 will not prevent the circumstances that are causing more and more municipalities to experience fiscal problems that endanger service delivery. Pennsylvania needs options that will better enable communities to provide regional services. Read about the problem and one possible solution in Beyond Act 47: A Call to Action!

What to do About Public Pensions? Options for Funding and Reform

The Executive Committee of Temple University’s Center on Regional Politics recently identified options to address Pennsylvania’s public pension funding crisis. Click to read the Pension Working Group report.

Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer Outlines Agenda

Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer presented “Planning Beyond Recovery: The Mayor’s Vision and Strategic Plan for Reading” at the April 25 PEL Issues Forum. The plan outlined Mayor Spencer’s goals for safer and cleaner neighborhoods, economic development and job creation, sound fiscal management, open and transparent government and high quality of life. Download the presentation here.

Act 111 Reform Proposal

Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) offers legislation to reform Act 111, which provides binding arbitration to police and firefighters in exchange for prohibitions against strikes. The Coalition for Sustainable Communities, a group of Pennsylvania chambers of commerce, local government associations, and other business community and municipal leaders, believes binding arbitration awards contribute to escalating municipal costs that contribute to financial stress. Read the details here.

Rosy Assumptions Could Derail Pennsylvania Public Pension Reform Efforts

Buried in the debate about how to fix Pennsylvania’s myriad state and municipal pension problems is the concern that many, like Pittsburgh, are even more underfunded than reported because of overly optimistic rates of return. Pension boards often turn a blind eye to the issue because facing it would require contributing even more money to the systems at a time when fully funding plans already seems overwhelming. Download Rosy Assumptions Could Derail Pennsylvania’s Public Pension Reform Efforts to read more.

Broken in the Box: A Case for Local Government Reform in Pennsylvania

Like an eagerly awaited gift that turns out to be in pieces when the wrapping is torn away, Pennsylvania’s inadequate method of raising revenue for local government services is broken in the box. The result: Many municipalities are either teetering at the edge of a fiscal cliff as they struggle to pay for a comprehensive range of services for their residents or they remain in the black by shortchanging citizens on vital but costly services that boost quality of life. Download Broken in the Box: A Case for Local Government Reform here.

Easy Way for Towns to Save Big Money

Counties, boroughs, townships and school districts, many of which are scrambling to lower costs in the face of rising expenses to avoid tax increases or reduced services, can collectively save millions of dollars by exercising a once-in-four-year opportunity to change the method of pay for elected tax collectors. Download Easy Way for Towns to Save Big Money to read more.