Monday, May 2, 2011

Let’s Talk Commissioners’ Compensation!

What if I told you that as a resident and taxpayer of Ross Township, it costs $181,132.80 to pay for the salaries and health insurance for our Township Commissioners. Does this outrage you as much as it outrages us?  Are the taxpayers of Ross Township receiving an adequate return on investment or would we be better served using most of those funds to improve our parks, pave our roads, promote economic development or provide tax relief to our residents? 

Let’s look at the two components of the compensation package, starting with health insurance.

Ross Township’s Commissioners receive a health insurance package for themselves and their families (whether legally separated and gallivanting around town with a girlfriend or not).  This is a “Cadillac” package of medical, dental, and vision.  It is the same package that the employees of Ross Township receive, with one major difference….Ross Township employees are required to contribute to their health insurance premiums while many of the Commissioners do not contribute anything towards theirs.

In 2010, the health insurance for Commissioners (and their families) cost the Ross Township residents $122,266.80 for full coverage.  This year, the health insurance package for Commissioners will cost taxpayers $136,132.80 for their full coverage.   That is an increase of $13,866 over last year’s health insurance costs or an 11% increase.  All at taxpayers’ expense.

Not every Commissioner takes advantage of the Township provided health insurance.  Commissioner Ferraro (8th Ward) did not utilize any of it in 2010 and is using a small component, which I believe to be vision coverage this year at a cost of $12.90 a month.  Some Commissioners (Kinross, Mazur, and O’Brien) contribute 5% of their salaries towards their health insurance premium. 
 
The following information was provided by Ross Township in accordance with the Right to Know Law:

2011 Health Care Costs
Commissioners                 Monthly Total                   Yearly Total
Demarco, Daniel               $627.71                              $7,532.52
Eyster, Chris                       $1,488.43                           $17,861.16
(2)Ferraro, Peter               $12.90                                $154.80
(1)Kinross, Daniel              $1,656.97                           $19,883.64
(1)Mazur, Lana                   $1,488.43                          $17,861.16
Mikec, David                      $1,891.14                           $22,693.68
Montgomery, Grant         $1,891.14                           $22,693.68
(1)O’Brien, Gerald            $627.71                              $7,532.52
Stanko, Grace                    $1,656.97                           $19,883.64
Trustee's Fee                     $3.00                                   $36.00
Total                                    $11,344.40                         $136,132.80
(1)Repays 5% of their Health Care to Township
(2)Has his own Health Coverage
Commissioner Kinross 5% total per year portion is $917.23
Commissioner O’Brien 5% total per year potion is $343.04
Commissioner Mazur 5% total per year portion is $816.11


It’s interesting to note that most municipalities DO NOT provide health insurance coverage as part of the compensation package provided to their elected officials.  In fact, Brian O’Malley, a former Supervisor in Richland Township, has informed us that Richland Township does not provide health insurance coverage for their elected Supervisors and was surprised to learn of the lucrative package Ross Township provides to its Commissioners.  Health insurance coverage is discretionary while the salary is mandated by the First Class Township Code.  Therefore, Ross Township Commissioners could choose to do away with the health insurance coverage or at least like Commissioner Ferraro, not utilize it. Yet when they were in budget discussions for the past two years, the health insurance issue was never seriously discussed as a potential cut. 

For many of the Commissioners, their Township position is a part time secondary “job”.  Even Commissioners Stanko and Mazur derive their primary source of income from their spouses business (North Hills Printing and Mazur Autobody, respectively).  I’m sure the Commissioners have other opportunities for health insurance through their employers or other business associations. Yet they continue to utilize the tax payer funded health insurance, with a majority of them not even making a minor contribution.  This is probably because there aren’t many employers or places around that offer health insurance with little to no contribution to health insurance premiums.  I’m sure the taxpaying residents of Ross Township are contributing to their health insurance premiums and probably at way more than 5% of their premiums!

In addition, don’t give Commissioner Kinross too much credit because he contributes to some of his health insurance costs.  Commissioner Kinross, age 67, is utilizing the full health insurance coverage option although he is eligible for Medicare?  While there may be a difference in the level of coverage offered between the policies, he could utilize a gap policy that would cost Ross Township significantly less than the full coverage for which they are paying for.  Nevertheless, we do not believe that the taxpayers should be providing taxpayer funded health insurance for part-time elected officials such as the Commissioners.

So now let’s talk about the salary component.

At a recent Board of Commissioners meeting, they finally addressed the elephant in the room….the fact that the Commissioners are receiving a salary of $5,000 a year.  The Commissioners salary has been a sore point for many in the Township for many years.  Several Ross Township residents have been afraid to even approach the subject because it is such a grey area.  You see, according to the First Class Township Code, the state statute that governs Ross Township, the $5,000 salary is for townships that have a population of 35,000 or more. As of the 2010 Census, Ross Township has 31,105 residents.

The First Class Township Codes sets the salary for Township Commissioners as follows:

$5,000 for 35,000 or more residents

$4,375 for more than 25,000 but less than 35,000 residents

$4,125 for more than 15,000 but less than 25,000 residents

$3,250 for more than 10,000 but less than 15,000 residents

$2,500 for more than 5000 but less than 10,000 residents

$1,875 for less than 5000 residents

Based on this, the Commissioners should be receiving a salary of $4375 a year.

However, there is a clause in the First Class Township Code that states “no township shall be required to reduce the salary of a commissioner as a result of a decrease in population”.  My sources tell me that this point was brought up my Commissioner Mikec during the discussion of this topic at a recent Commissioner meeting.

Upon further research, Ross Township has not had 35,000 residents or more for a LONG time!  In 2000, the Census shows that Ross had 32,551 residents.  In 1990, Ross had 33,482 residents.  The Township has not had 35,000 or more residents for at least 20 years!  In fact, the population of Ross Township has been on a decline since the 1980’s.  I believe that Ross’ hey days were in the 50’s and 60’s and perhaps that is when Ross Township reached a population of 35,000.  I have not been able to find any figures past the 1990 Census, but I did find some Financial Reports from Ross that listed a declining population that started in the 1980’s.  There was a 4.67% decline in population between 1980 – 1990 and a 2.8% decline between 1990 – 2000.

In addition, the Financial Reports (you can read through them for yourself, follow this link to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the township, some interesting and enlightening information: http://www.ross.pa.us/finances/CAFR/) state that “Ross Township’s population remained fairly constant between the years of 1970 and 2000 with the present population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, of 32,551 people.”  

Even though the First Class Township Code states that the Commissioners are not compelled to reduce their salary due to a population decrease, not doing so looks like a money grab and does not comport with any sense of fairness to the taxpayers.  Why haven’t the Commissioner addressed this issue before 2011?  I can’t imagine that no one has brought this up until the past few months.  Perhaps this is a case of “I realize this may be wrong but if no one says anything and no one notices, let’s not bring it up”.

This game has been going on for years and while it may not seem like a big deal to some, it should be a big deal to you because it’s YOUR tax dollars that are being used to pay the salaries of the Township Commissioner’s.  Essentially, you and I have been paying the Commissioners the wrong amount for years! The $625 difference between the pay scales may not seem significant, but when you add it up it is.  $625 extra per year for each of the nine Commissioners is $5,625 per year.  Total that up for the last 10 years and you get $56,250.  Go all the way back to 1990 and it adds up to $112,500.  That kind of money could have been used somewhere else instead of inflating the wallets of the current and past Commissioners.  Think about this when you read the articles about how the Commissioners are considering rolling back their salaries or that they are “grandfathered” into the $5,000 a year. 

Life as a Ross Township Commissioner is good.  A $5,000 salary and taxpayer funded health insurance for a part time voluntary position (one that some Commissioners use to further their own businesses/agendas) in which the tax payers foot the bill for a total compensation package of $181,132.80!

Think about this….are the Commissioners moving Ross Township in the right direction?  What is the return on investment of the $181,132.80 compensation package we the taxpayers are providing to the Commissioners? 

Make no mistake, the authors of this blog are proud residents of Ross Township.  We are anonymous only because of the vindictive and vengeful nature of those that we criticize here.  We must think of our families and jobs first.  We are not trying to portray the Township in a negative light.  On the contrary, we simply want to shine a light where it needs to be shined so that Ross Township can reach its full potential rather than being held back by some of our elected Commissioners who are in it for themselves or for the health insurance and not the people they represent. 

As readers of this blog, you need to know the information we have posted so that you can make informed decisions on election day and so you can speak about these issues to your friends, neighbors and elected officials so they know where you stand.  Despite what the naysayers state about the intent of this blog or the truthfulness of the information contained therein, everything we put in our posts is true and accurate and comes from news reports (which we link to) or information provided by the Township (that we have posted here).

If you think that the Township is moving in the right direction with the empty storefronts on McKnight Road and the declining population that continues to slide (4.4% decline in population from 2000 – 2010), then by all means sit back and let the Commissioners continue to do their thing.

However, if you think that Ross Township is moving in the wrong direction and that the Commissioners aren’t doing a good job overall, then find your voice and speak up!  

3 comments:

  1. Who should I vote for instead?

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  2. Can't tell you who to vote for, just hoping to provide information so that you can make an informed decision when you go to the polls!

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