Checking Union County Salaries

By John Bury | July 2, 2015

Sorting base salaries from the 2015 employee list into a spreadsheet (go through the tabs at the bottom to see the different departments) and comparing each department to the numbers in the 2015 budget (another spreadsheet) we find some items of note:

  • Fourteen employees whose job title is ‘confidential
  • Overtime seems to be at $18 million
  • Some departments (notably Economic Development, County Counsel, and Public Works) show higher amounts in the 2015 employee list salaries than what is in the 2015 budget, a possible explanation for which could be layoffs coming
  • (for the accountants only) – the 2015 Adopted Budget has an error as the $14,770 Salary Adjustment reduction was not reflected in the Appropriations page

 

Rahway River Park Stadium Sales Job

By John Bury | July 1, 2015

At the Hamilton Stage in Rahway tonight Union County put together a presentation on the football stadium they are going to put in the middle of Rahway River Park.

Here is the current Rahway football stadium which happens to be visible from the site of this meeting:
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There were four parts to the presentation:

  1. Neglia Engineering representative on the scope and design of the new stadium
  2. Public Safety Director Moran on parking
  3. County Counsel Barry on ‘potential next steps in the process”
  4. Questions as submitted on index cards and ONLY on scope and design issues

Below is video of the first 3 parts.  I saw no reason to stick around for Q&A since the real story was unlikely to come out.  Being precluded from asking ‘why’ and ‘how’ I am left to my own theory:

  1. DeCotiis wanted a project for the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) and someone came up with the idea of a football stadium in Rahway River Park
  2. Union County fronted the money for Neglia expecting to be repaid (maybe) when the bonding goes through the UCIA
  3. The stadium will likely wind up costing about $5 million
  4. DeCotiis should see about $300,000 of that
  5. The Rahway mayor and whoever is running for council could again get their $10,000 cuts

 

Neglia’s presentation elicited this response after it was over:
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Scope and design of the stadium:
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Parking:
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Potential next steps:
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CBC-4: Salaries

By John Bury | July 1, 2015

According to their 2015 budgets counties will be paying almost $2.1 billion in salaries which would include overtime since when, for example, you total up base pays from the 2015 employee list for Union County you get $147,970,115 while their 2015 budget has total salaries at $164,993,048.

On top of salaries county employees also get pensions and insurance which, according to those budget figures, amounts to 15.8% of salaries for pensions and 38.48% for insurance.

 

CBC-3: Pension Costs

By John Bury | June 30, 2015

Of the $4.66 billion that counties will get in taxes in 2015 about $330 million (7.06%) will go for payments into various pensions plans. This is only a fraction of the real cost (presuming no default) but far more than what the state is putting in for their portion.

Putting the pension items from 2015 county budgets into a  spreadsheet a few things stand out:

  • Three counties (Essex, Hudson, and Passaic) list substantial deposits ($9.8 million total) into what they label ‘county’ plans which look like they are separate from the state run plans
  • Comparatively little ($836,900) is being deposited into the state DCRP yet after the collapse of the defined benefit plan system which should come toward the end of this decade this type of plan will be the primary pension vehicle for all public employees
  • These contribution amounts are determined two years in advance by actuarial reports that develop numbers to the dollar yet two counties (Monmouth and Passaic PERS) budget rounded numbers.

 

CBC-2: Insurance Costs

By John Bury | June 29, 2015

Of the $4.66 billion that counties will get in taxes in 2015 over $800 million (17.2%) will go for insurance premiums.

Putting the insurance items from 2015 county budgets into a spreadsheet a few things stand out:

  • Unless they hide it in Other Insurance there are only three counties (Bergen, Passaic, and Union) that provide both Drug and Dental coverage
  • Of the $4,81,200 counties spend on health benefit waivers, $1,850,000 will be paid to Union County employees
  • Salem County seems to be prefunding health benefits for retirees (though only for $220,000) which is remarkable in a state where every other government ignores OPEB obligations.

County Budget Comparisons (CBC) – 1: Freeholder Costs

By John Bury | June 27, 2015

Now that all the 2015 county budgets are out this is a good time for a detailed comparison of budget items* beginning with the cost to each county of their freeholder board.

Unlike other line items where different counties do different things for varying number of people, every county has a freeholder board consisting of people usually handpicked to do the bidding of the power-brokers.  In that regard they are middle-men who can easily be eliminated if those string-pullers would care to step out of the shadows.  That is not going to happen soon so here is what they are costing: $8,334,493

Over $6.4 million was paid in salaries to take care of 137 freeholders though it looks like some counties include staff while over $1.9 million for expenses though varying wildly among the counties form two (Bergen, Somerset) with $0 to Morris at $542,247.

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* It is also a particularly good time of year for this series since for the rest of the summer we will have only two more freeholder meetings and waiting on getting back to full staffing.

Golf Fireworks

By John Bury | June 26, 2015

The New Jersey State Golf Association will host their 95th Open Championship in a couple of weeks at Rockaway River Country Club in Denville.  I bring this up because their 96th Open Championship, as announced in 2012,  will be held at Galloping Hill Golf Club.  Coincidentally, also in what might be the same month next year, Baltusrol will be hosting the PGA Championship (one of the Majors of golf) with elaborate plans already set.  How will Galloping Hill compete?  We just might have gotten a clue.

Continue reading “Golf Fireworks”

County Budgets and Debt – 2015

By John Bury | June 25, 2015

The 2015 county budgets are now all available* and 0f the $4.7 billion in taxes counties will receive almost 17% ($783 million) will be going for debt payments – county debt payment to taxes spreadsheet for 2015.

In a prior blog we compared tax levies among the counties for 2009 and 2015 and found that one county had the highest percentage and dollar increase in taxes.

We now compare debt payments for those years in a spreadsheet and find:

  1. The overall increase for all counties was 13.59% over those six years
  2. Debt payments in seven counties actually went DOWN (all the way to $0 in Hunterdon – check out their 2015 debt service page)
  3. The biggest dollar increase in debt payments was $22,881,656
  4. The biggest percentage increase in debt payments was 53.34%
  5. It was the same county

Atlanticwebsite
Bergenwebsite
Burlington-website
Camdenwebsite
Cape Maywebsite
Cumberlandwebsite
Essexwebsite
Gloucesterwebsite
Hudsonwebsite
Hunterdonwebsite
Mercerwebsite
Middlesexwebsite
Monmouthwebsite
Morriswebsite
Oceanwebsite
Passaic- website
Salem - website
Somersetwebsite
Sussexwebsite
Unionwebsite
Warrenwebsite

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* Click on the county name above to go to their 2015 budget and click on the word ‘website’ next to it to go to the area of their website where all the budgets they care to share are located. Essex County got their budget approved yesterday and should be online any day but an Essex County representative provided me with their debt payment amount for the spreadsheet.

Tax Levy Cap (5): Health Insurance Exclusion

By John Bury | June 23, 2015

According to New Jersey Statutes Annotated (NJSA) among the things you can add onto the tax levy cap is:

(3) Increases in health care costs equal to that portion of the actual Increase in total health care costs for the budget year that is in excess of 2.0% of the total health care costs in the prior year, but is not in excess of the product of the total health care costs in the prior year and the average percentage increase of the State Health Benefits Program as annually determined by the Division of Pensions and Benefits in the Department of Treasury

Pulling off data on health insurance costs from the 20 budgets available for 2015 gives us an idea of how the counties are doing their calculations but we cannot duplicate all their numbers without their Health Insurance Exclusion Calculation Sheet (which we have for only Mercer and Union who put it in their budget document and responded to an OPRA request, respectively). The item missing from the others is the ‘Revenues Offset by Group Health Insurance Appropriation’ which could mean grant money that is allocated towards paying insurance costs though most counties seem to have that item as $0.

The Current Year State Health Benefits Program Average Increase was 7.4% according to the Division of Local Government Services (DLGS) gives you to calculate the tax levy cap but somehow 3.57% becomes a factor in these calculations.  Luckily for people who need to do these things the DLGS also provides you with a spreadsheet where all you have to do is input the data in the first sheet of the spreadsheet and it will calculate the cap and exclusions for you in the other sheets.

For Union County that exclusion comes to $866,335 (the increase in excess of 2% of the 2014 cost) when the numbers are plugged into that DLGS spreadsheet yet no exclusion was used in Union County’s actual cap calculation for 2015.

Comparing what other counties did in 2015 in a spreadsheet shows that only three (Gloucester-$217,900, Hudson-$1,881,567, and Morris-$185,578) used the full amount of the excess while five others (Burlington, Cumberland, Monmouth, Somerset, and Warren) all came in under the cap and had no exclusion to use.  The other counties either used more than they could have (Atlantic and Hunterdon) or used less (Bergen, Camden, Salem) or nothing (the rest including Union).

 

 

UCCF 6/18/15: Pay-to-Play

By John Bury | June 21, 2015

2015-520: Authorizing the County Manager to enter into a contract wirh Brown and Brown Metro, Florham Park, NJ and Worth Insurance Agency, LLC, Florham Park, NJ for the provision of: Insurance Consultant/Broker Services from July 1, 2015 through September 30, 2015. This contract shall provide necessary services as outlined above at no additional cost to the county.

2015-525: Amending Resolution Number 2010-609, a Professional Architectural Design and Construction Management Service Contract with Netta Architects, Mountainside, New Jersey, for additional professional services associated with the Justice Complex, Phase III, Oriscello Correctional Facility Interior Alterations, in an amount not to exceed S77,860.00 for a new contract amount nor to exceed $1,482,030.00.

2015-526: Amending Resolution Number 2012-746, a Professional Engineering Design, Construction Administration and Inspection Service Contract with T&M Associates, Middletown, New Jersey, for additional professional services associated with the Replacement of Madison Hill Road Bridge, Ra28, Township of Clark, City of Rahway in an amount not to exceed $32,686.00 for a new contract amount of $314,862.00. (Union County Engineering Project Number 2012-016)

2015-527: Amending Resolution Number 2014-774, a Professional Architectural Design and Construction Management Services agreement with Netta Architects, of Mountainside, New Jersey, associated with the Union County Courthouse Complex New Tower Stairwell Modernization Project, for the relocation of the existing radio mom in an amount not co exceed $124,000.00 for a new contract amount nor to exceed S3,818,330.00.

2015-528: Authorizing the County Manager to award a Professional Engineering Service Contract to CME Associates of Parlin. New Jersey to provide Licensed Sire Remediation (LSRP) Services for the remediation and monitoring of the Former Probation Building in an amount not to exceed $750.00. (Union County Engineering Project Number 201.3-027)

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Those vendors/campaign donors mentioned with their campaign donations as taken from the NJ Election Law Enforcement Search Page:

T&M Assocaites

Netta Architects

CME Associates

Worth Insurance