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Steve Levy Consolidation of government agencies,
February 22, 2013 @ 12:00 am EST
Our speaker this morning was former County Executive Steve Levy, and now the Director of “Center for Cost Effective Government”
Steve Levy has created a group that endeavors to streamline government. As most of us already know there are myriad districts controlling schools, fire districts, library districts, and various other entities that are squandering our regional wealth due to duplication of efforts and other inefficiencies.
Political people have shown themselves to be unwilling and/or unable to attack theses resource draining duplications of effort. To overcome some of that political impotence they have mounted a campaign to have certain items put on the ballot. Under the terms of that initiative 10% of the electorate can petition for a ballot resolution. That resolution can now be addressed in a general election. This is a substantial win, but does not quite get us “home.”
Mr. Levy spoke about the repeal of the MTA tax that began its life at LIMBA when Bill Schoolman brought that item to our attention (you are still paying that tax while it is being appealed). Winning that round with the help of the law firm he is presently affiliated with, Levy is encouraged that much more can be accomplished. He gave an egregious example of the Gordon Heights fire district that was costing about $2,000/year per household. There has been some progress on consolidating that district to a neighboring district. The group did that by fielding its own candidates in the fire district. That board is now charged with voting for consolidation.
Levy went on to discuss the out of control public pensions, and cited the various problems that defy cost containment
1. Allowing overtime to effect final payments in the last few years of a working career, making it possible in some cases to have an annual retirement greater than the base pay.
2. Step increases that allow for annual raises despite the fact that a union contract has expired. This creates a situation where the union has no incentive to negotiate.
3. Arbitration – This provision in the law comes into play when the unions and management cannot come to an agreement. The arbitrators simply give more than an adjacent police department or school district or whatever the issue is. The arbitrators don’t have any skin in the game so they do what is easy.
4. Disability fraud. With disability you receive 75% of your salary, and they are finding numerous cases of already retired workers are retroactively claiming disability so they can get a higher payout.
Reserves make up the difference when a government body runs out of money. The problem becomes acute when those reserves run out. We are at that juncture.
During the Q&A possible solutions were discussed. Legally some things will be extremely difficult to change. Others remedies could be implemented with leaders with political will. Levy warned that we should be leery of the feel-good remedies that kick in 20 years down the road. “We need changes that will make a difference next year.” This recap hardly scratches the surface. There is so much more to discuss.
Mr. Levy is holding a symposium on these and other topics at Dowling in the Conservatory next Wednesday at 1PM. This meeting invitation was extended to everyone in the room. All who would like to attend must register.
Phone: (631) 877-0940