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Christie Seeks to Eliminate Vacation, Sick Time Payouts for Public Workers

Governor calls on the Legislature to take action during the remaining 30 days of session.

Governor Chris Christie and a bipartisan group of 234 mayors from around the state, including mayors from Millburn, Caldwell, North Caldwell and West Orange, are out to end payouts for accumulated sick and vacation time for public employees.

Eleven of those mayors joined Christie today at a press conference in Teaneck today where they called for the state legislature to pass sick and vacation pay reform. Currently, public workers can accumulate sick days and vacation days and collect payment for them when they retire.

Today, the governor said, liabilities facing taxpayers across the state for unused sick and vacation day benefits total more than $825 million.

“Every tax dollar that’s used to cash out unused sick and vacation days is a dollar that should be going to limit a tax increase and be sent right back to the taxpayer,” Christie said. "The only way to deal with property taxes is to lessen the amount we spend.”

The legislature passed a bill that would cap future payouts at $15,000 but the governor vetoed it; his goal is to eliminate the retirement payouts completely.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who sat in on the Governor's press conference, said Democrats have made attempts to work with Christie.

“As with most things the governor brings up, reality is often a little more complex than his rhetoric,” Weinberg said in a statement. “We need to ensure that in our rush to reform the system, we do not push long-time workers to the exit. If we do, local governments will be faced with having to pay all of those retiring workers now, inadvertently putting themselves in an even more tenuous fiscal position."

So how much are public employees accruing town to town?

Earlier today, the NJ Department of Community Affairs made available a spreadsheet revealing what municipalities owe workers in accrued sick and vacation time.

If paid out, Millburn would owe a little less than $1.49 million, according to the spreadsheet, compared to Newark's $48 million and West Orange's $10 million.

The spreadsheet breaks down that cost per average household for accumulated absence, but the spreadsheet does not break that number down separately for sick and vacation time.

In some towns, the accrued time is really adding up. Take Alpine Borough in Bergen County, for example, where the average household cost is $1,169 for accrued sick and vacation time for municipal employees.

By comparison, in Millburn, the average cost per household is $196. Nearby in Maplewood, the cost per household is just $41 but in South Orange it’s $445.

Other Essex County towns range from the lowest being Fairfield at a little more than $11 and Verona with $19 per household to the highest being Newark with $771, East Orange with $661 and West Orange with $623. Many fell somewhere in between some of those being Bloomfield at $372, Livingston at $364, Caldwell at $390, West Caldwell at $264,  Montclair at $218, North Caldwell at $217, Cedar Grove at $203 and Belleville at $171 per household.

Millburn-Short Hills Editor Laura Griffin and Teaneck Editor Noah Cohen in Teaneck contributed to this report.

Claire December 13, 2011 at 03:51 AM
That's why the accumulation of vacation and sickdays need to be limited. Use it or lose it!
Claire December 13, 2011 at 03:57 AM
IT'S FINE!!!!!!
Claire December 13, 2011 at 04:06 AM
What is the practice followed in industry? Forget the difference of salary, it's sick time that I"m referring to.Some companies have disability insurance, some do not. Let's hear from some who are not public employees., just taxpayers. There are 2 sides to every argument!
tryintosurvive December 13, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Yes, sick leave incentives do cost the town money and here is an example. For each day a teacher is out sick a substitute teacher is brought in for each day at approximately $120. This is paid for only the days needed, no benefits, no pension. Lets estimate 5 days in a typical year needed for a total cost of $600 (5 x $120). For each day of "paid for" days off (up to 10 per year) the teacher is paid their salary (about $300 per day) at their retirement rate of pay (estimated at $400 per day). If 5 days are taken off then the substitute cost is still $600 (5 x $120) and the "paid for" time that was not used is paid at $2000 when they retire (5 x $400) for a total cost of $2600. Where is the savings? It looks like a cost of $2000 to me.
John December 21, 2011 at 12:29 AM
What happens then to a public sector employee who has a substantial amount of sick, vacation and compensation time? Is it a "Use it or lose it" scenario? No payout just means an employee with a substantial amount of accumulated sick time will burn a lot of time prior to retirement which could mean paying overtime to replace them until they are finally retired and off the government payroll. Christie stated that if your not sick consider yourself fortunate that you don't have to use it. Maybe he should audit all the agencies in the public sector to find out how severe the abuse of sick time is and what really has been perpetrated against the tax payers of New Jersey. His reform isn't the answer because it will just cost the tax payer that much more to pay the exorbent amount of overtime in many of the public sector agencies. If you do away with the payout all you do is increase the use of sick time instead of it being an incentive not to use it.

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