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July 26, 2010

Cut hours, increase pensions

Cayuga County legislators will vote Tuesday on a plan to increase their pensions by reducing their workweek from 35 to 30 hours.

If approved by the 15-member Legislature, members will qualify for full-time pension credit, rather than two-thirds credit they now receive, according to the Auburn Citizen.

Legislators' salaries, which start at $10,100, are low enough that when spread out over a 35-hour weekly schedule, the hourly pay is less than minimum wage and results in members qualifying for only an eight month retirement credit.

A shorter work week will raise the hourly pay, in the eyes of the pension system, and allow most legislators to collect a full year credit. Legislators who earn the base salary, $10,100, will still fall short of a full year credit, but those who earn extra--the chair and vice chair of the Legislature and committee chairs--will benefit.

This move will increase the state's retirement payout, but will not affect the county's contribution.

A legislative committee approved the proposal by a 5-2 vote last week. Roger Mills, a dissenter, questioned whether legislators are working 30-hour weeks. "It's a part-time job," Mills said. "And to receive a full-time benefit for a part-time job I don't think is correct."

Former Auburn Mayor Guy Cosentino weighed against the change
in his regular newspaper column.
This recommendation brings into question what some local leaders mean when they say they will do "more with less." Did they really mean fewer hours and more pension benefits just for themselves? It is not clear if they even grasp the national and state economic picture, that see rising deficits on the one hand from Washington and a horrific 2010-2011 spending plan on the other from Albany.
Cosentino notes the proposal would not increase the county's pension contribution.
Fine, but it will clearly impact New York state's. With a state pension system in crisis, it is hard to believe that elected officials would even consider additional burdens on it.
A new state regulation requires local officials elected after August 12, 2009 to keep three-month records of their work hours to determine whether they qualify for full-time pension credit.

Eight of the Cayuga County legislators who were elected in November were immediately affected in January. The other seven would not be affected until 2012 when their new terms would begin. However, they voluntarily could submit three-month diaries before then. The recent newspaper story does not address how many Cayuga County legislators submitted the new time records.


Posted by Lise Bang-Jensen

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