The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 24, 2013

Overtime pumps up some PSP troopers’ pay, pensions

---- —



Three state police troopers racked up so much overtime last year that they were paid more than the head of the state police or the attorney general.

One trooper picked up almost $100,000 in overtime and was paid more than the governor.

All three troopers retired by the end of the year, a state police spokesman said.

Making all that money in the final year of their working career has an important benefit in Pennsylvania – it boosts the pensions they will receive for the rest of their lives. Pensions are based on an average of the worker’s final three years of employment.

Concerns about the public costs that follow when governments allow workers to run up overtime in the waning days of their careers have prompted “anti-spiking” legislation in a number of states. It is one of the under-the-radar reforms tucked in the pension plan proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett to avoid making $500 million in employer contributions this year.

Three of the nine northeastern states do not include overtime in the calculation of pension benefits, according to a study by researchers commissioned by the Connecticut General Assembly. Both New York and California passed anti-spiking legislation in 2012.

Taking steps to prevent employees from fattening  pensions by working overtime could save $456 million between 2019-2023, according to an analysis of Corbett’s pension reform plan, completed by the accounting firm of Milliman, Inc.

The plan recommends that pensions be calculated based on the final five years of earnings. Corbett’s office has also proposed that the state adopt anti-spiking measures to limit the amount of overtime used in  pension calculations.

State records show that 295 state police troopers were paid more than $100,000 last year. Some of that is due to the imbalance between retirements and the number of new troopers hired to replace them, according to the union that represents state police. When Corbett announced funding for three cadet classes, the department said it was operating with 4,191 troopers, 480 short of its approved complement.

Three troopers  – Robert Buckley, Van Keys and Timothy Flickinger – were paid more than $150,000, according to government databases on the state’s open records website: pennwatch.pa.gov.

Buckley was paid $182,972. His base pay was $87,045.

Acting attorney general Linda Kelly was paid $151,367 last year. Col. Frank Noonan, the head of the state police, was paid $142,314.

At $183,255, Corbett’s salary is the highest of all U.S. governors. A spokesman said Corbett has declined three straight increases, making his pay just under $175,000.

For comparison, there were 37 Department of Corrections employees who were paid more than $100,000, including one guard who was paid $135,436. His base salary was $63,218.

In the Department of Public Welfare, 14 registered nurses were paid more than $100,000. The highest paid RN was paid $147,828. The  nurse’s base salary was $71,939.

Stephen Herzenberg, an economist with   Keystone Research Center and a critic of Corbett’s pension reform measures, said individual cases do not justify wholesale changes that reduce pension benefits for all workers.

“If there is documented evidence of real abuses that led to outsized pensions, we should look at it,” Herzenberg said.

The solution may not require changing the rules for all workers, he said. If a department is short-staffed and workers are told to work overtime, then it is unfair to exclude that compensation from their pension calculation, he said.

Government retirees do not get regular cost-of-living adjustments, so any move to diminish benefits would require close scrutiny, he said. “Computing benefits over a longer period of time is just a way of lowering benefits,”  Herzenberg said.

A state police spokesman said troopers with special training often will have greater opportunity to pick up overtime.

“Specialized positions ... inherently have more overtime associated with the positions. An example of this can be our SERT (Special Emergency Response Team), our Forensic Services Unit members, and K-9 handlers, to name a few. This is because these positions are of an  ‘on-call’ nature in addition to the regular shifts worked,” said  Adam Reed.

Even troopers who primarily serve on patrol duty will have opportunities to pick up overtime for speed enforcement, DUI checkpoints or to monitor construction zones.

Troopers are selected for that “discretionary overtime”  based on their availability and performance, Reed said.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Prison term upheld for sex offender

    A sex offender challenging a 4- to 8-year prison sentence for a probation violation lost an appeal of that sentence.

    April 23, 2014

  • Man, 24, must register as sex offender for life

    The Ohio man who exposed himself to Sharon girls on their way to school last fall must register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life when he gets out of jail.

    April 23, 2014

  • Man deemed predator – for now

    A former Sharon man was sent to the state prison system Tuesday for corrupting the morals of a teenage girl, but the question of whether his penalties under Megan’s Law will stand could be subject to future legal proceedings.

    April 23, 2014

  • Not even waste will be wasted

    Tom Darby admits he wishes the startup of the anaerobic digestion process at the Hermitage Water Pollution Control Plant had moved along much faster.

    April 23, 2014

  • 3rd Earth Fest draws families to Penn State

    Penn State Shenango’s Earth Fest has become a spring tradition for area residents.
    Families poured into downtown Sharon for the campus’ third annual sustainability celebration.

    April 22, 2014

  • Amish clean Shenango River Volunteers protect Shenango River

    Shenango River Watchers has spent more than a decade working to clean up the Shenango and improve recreational access to its water and banks.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • For many, recycling’s become way of life

    When Pennsylvania mandated curbside recycling for its larger municipalities in 1998 – those with more than 5,000 people – there was grumbling about government interference in the lives of everyday people.

    April 22, 2014

  • Many items can’t be thrown away

    The computer screen in front of you isn’t likely to do you much harm, at least not until it’s tossed in a landfill where the lead-filled components start to leak and eventually find their way into your drinking water, according to Jerry Zona, director of the Lawrence-Mercer County Recycling/Solid Waste department.

    April 22, 2014

  • David Sykes' solar panels Earthworks

    While touring Germany last year, David Sykes spotted solar panels resting in a residential back yard.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Burned using Icy Hot, woman claims

    A Grove City woman has sued Chattem Inc. and Rite Aid of Pennsylvania Inc., alleging she suffered a second-degree chemical burn using one of Chattem’s Icy Hot pain relief products.

    April 21, 2014

  • Family outing Family friendly

    “We’re No. 5’’ isn’t a sports cheer you’ll hear any time soon.
    But considering the lumps the greater area has gotten over the years on economic rankings, it’s an outright victory.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • To demolish or not Tear it down? Fix it up?

    In 2007, Richard D. Givens bought a home at 831 Knobwood Drive in Hermitage for $245,000.
    Today, the city of Hermitage is seeking the demolition of the now-vacant house, arguing the damage from water infiltration makes the structure not worth saving.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • News briefs from April 19, 2014

    April 19, 2014

  • Man admits having child porn

    A Mercer man accused of soliciting and downloading photographs of nude teenage girls pleaded guilty April 8 to sexual abuse of children for possessing child pornography.

    April 19, 2014

  • Police getting new tool to fight crime

    Sharon police working at crime scenes will be putting a powerful new investigative tool to work as soon as next month.

    April 19, 2014