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Pay scales are not the only problem

October 31, 2012
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Many were left scratching their heads earlier this week - especially Brocton officials - when it was revealed the municipality of about 1,480 residents had the highest average pay for its employees in a Western New York village.

According to the report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy, the 13 workers average a salary of $45,118. Some may say this is not a big deal, but the above-average pay is a reflection of what has been going wrong - for decades - in Western New York.

While businesses and residents have cut back - or left the region - area municipalities have gotten fatter. Pay and benefits for workers increase annually - and those are not Albany edicts, but locally negotiated contracts.

Brocton, which many would say is missing only tumbleweeds, is not a growing community and will not be anytime soon. The high cost of its work force, however, is not the full story as the Empire Center points out.

"It is important to note that the (salaries) do not include pension contributions, health insurance, and other fringe benefits, important elements of compensation that can easily amount to 30 to 40 percent of salary costs," the Empire Center reports.

If these benefits are added in, the average cost of a Brocton worker - to the taxpayers - is more than $60,000.

But the village of Brocton is not the No. 1 area municipality in terms of the ratio of municipal employees to its population. That distinction, which will not be of a surprise to those who follow dysfunctional governments, goes to the chaotic Forestville.

In a village where some board members publicly acknowledge how poor the community is, tax rates have increased 48 percent over three years while employee pay raises in that same span have gone up nearly 20 percent.

You want poor? Keep raising taxes and employee salaries and your municipality will be poor by discouraging any private investment.

To get this ratio that puts Forestville at the top, take the population of the municipality and divide it by the number of employees it has hired. For every 63 residents in Forestville, there is one employee.

Here's how other communities break down in terms of number of residents for every one employee: Westfield, 64; Gowanda, 73; city of Dunkirk, 81; Silver Creek, 91; Chautauqua County, 99; Brocton, 113; Fredonia, 145; Cassadaga, 157.

The towns were next, with Dunkirk leading the way at 171 residents for every one employee. Others included: Ripley, 176; Arkwright, 187; Sheridan, 191; Stockton, 220; Hanover, 275; Portland, 332; and Westfield, 425.

In the end, towns were more efficient - especially Westfield - while the county, villages and city of Dunkirk were less apt to watch expenses with its staff. And that's a scenario that has been playing out for far too long.



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