All public sector employees should be forced to go at least one year without any kind of salary increase or addition to the benefits package they already receive. Although some may find it drastic, mandating federal, state, county and municipal employees go without any kind of increase for at least one year is necessary and fair.
It was a relief this week to hear Ocean City Manager Dennis Dare is at least considering an employee pay freeze for his proposed budget, which will be presented to the Mayor and Council this spring. Dare said at Tuesday’s meeting the city should consider not granting a 3-percent Cost Of Living Adjustment for its employees this year. He said that would amount to $583,000 in savings for non-union employees.
In what may or may have been a coincidence, Dare recently released a look at the top 100 gross earners for the town after Councilwoman Margaret Pillas requested the document some time ago. Along with dollar figures, it included overtime percentage as gross and whether the employee received such perks as a vehicle, cell phone, clothing allowance or shoe allowance. Fifty people on this list made more than $100,000 last year and the 100th person on the list received a little more than $85,000.
The list only proves what’s well known already. Government employees have it great. The fact is public sector employees are paid extremely well, receive the best in health insurance and retirement benefits and enjoy generous holiday and sick leave policies.
The reality here is many private sector employees do not get salary increases each year, and many do not expect them, particularly in rough times. It’s appropriate, reasonable and responsible for elected officials to tell their employees they cannot get their annual salary hikes this year. It’s not the end of the world, but it could mean a difference in the amount of money property owners pay in taxes.
Sacrifices are being made everywhere and making government employees go without a 3- or 5-percent raise for one year is not too much to ask. When compared to the fact many people are losing their jobs each day because businesses can’t support them, they should just be thankful to make a solid living.
Salary freezes are not the popular political thing to do, but it needs to be done on all levels, from the state to the county to the school board to the municipalities.
Local governments are cutting budgets everywhere. Anticipating another year of stagnant or declining visitors to Ocean City, Dare suggested the town’s budget should be reduced. That will call for lots of tough decisions, similar to the one facing the council this week in Ocean City. Not reducing the bus service was an example of how not to govern during these times. It’s our hope Ocean City and governments everywhere have the courage to authorize serious cuts. A good place to start is freezing employee salaries.