Every tax is a pay cut.  Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation

Study: Town workers make too much Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Craig MacCormack (508-626-4429) Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Town employees took home more than their fair share in the last 20 years, according to the first position paper of a fledgling group concerned about controlling municipal spending.

The Framingham Taxpayers Association released a study of salary and wage increases by the town to its employees from July 1, 1981, to Dec. 31, 2001.  The study shows raises have often been higher than cost-of-living adjustments.

The report says town officials "placed undue emphasis on how much money happened to be available, and insufficient emphasis on how much was justified by actual changes in the cost of living."

"What we're trying to do is point out the weaknesses in the management of the town's financial affairs," said FTPA spokesman Steve Kruger, who did much of the research.  "I expect we'll keep an eye on that in the future."

Since Proposition 2 1/2 went into effect in July 1981, the general increases in salaries and wages -- often referred to as cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs -- given to town employees have exceeded the increase in the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, by more than 14 percentage points, according to the FTPA report.

The Department of Labor-generated CPI measures prices of a fixed set of goods bought by a typical consumer, including food, transportation, shelter, medical care, clothing and entertainment.

The cumulative dollar value of the amount by which COLAs have exceeded the increase in the CPI since 1981 is on the order of tens of millions of dollars, the FTPA reported.

"We've been very generous to our employees," said Kruger.  "The unions may be inclined to look at the 0 percent COLAs they accepted last year as something they're due back in the future, but we see it differently.

"It's really just a return of the generosity the town provided in the 1990s," he said.

The FTPA wants to see a long-range financial forecast, in accordance with town bylaws, and a balance in the town's stabilization fund equal to at least 5 percent of the annual operating budget.

Town Manager George King read the FTPA report and focused mostly on the past five years, saying that is a better representation of how the town is run.

"Figures can be made to show just about anything," he said.  "I feel our collective bargaining results have been very much within the realm of our environment.  I think we've worked very well with our unions.

"(The 0 percent COLA for fiscal 2004) shows we've bargained for the times.  We can't change the past, but we can certainly learn from it.  Our unions have been very reasonable and worked very well with us.  We expect that to continue."

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