Edward Gamble, of Bellmawr, age 90
Gloucester Catholic Rams Field Hockey

OPINION: The Pension System for Police, Fire Departments and County Sheriffs Needs to be Fixed

UPDATED/CORRECTED
 
 
 
Dorothy Heade | CNBNews contributor
 
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (October 19, 2021)--Recently there was quite the conversation on CNBNews about Gloucester City employees who are enrolled in the NJ state pension plans.  One person explained that when he retired from his private industry job he should make out just as well and questioned if the rest of us were jealous.  The answer is "no."  If someone worked for Comcast (as an example) and is collecting a million dollar pension, congratulations!  I, as a consumer, have the opportunity to use Comcast's services or Verizon , Dish, Direct or no cable service at all.  The city employees, however, are different.  We don't have any say in who is hired, the contract negotiations, the pension terms or the cost of all the above.  We just get the bill and told "don't ask any questions, just pay the bills and shut up!" 6a00d8341bf7d953ef0224df359f19200b-320wi
 
 
Researching datauniverse.com  which contains the salaries and pensions for NJ Public employees who worked for municipalities and school districts I found a number of people who have died that are still listed in that information.  Some had no survivors and yet their names still appear in that system and in data bases of other pension plans.  I researched the Police and Firemen's pension plan first. I found them in all pension plans.  If we're paying the deceased pensions I wonder if they are also voting.  There is a possibility that dataunivers is at fault, that they have been notified but haven't gotten to correcting their system.
 
The average person collecting Social Security gets about $1,000 - $1,200 per month.  We got a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) of 1.15% last year.  So, if you got $1,000 of your money per month (less medicare) with COLA you now got $1,011.50 less medicare.  Let's look at a police officer who retired in 1989.  He was making $31,108 (that looks low but was an average salary at the time.)  His monthly pension was $1,750 but his COLA was $774 for a total of $2,523 for a total of $30,281.  This retired officer now get a pension that is 93% of his salary.  
 
Years back, 1970s and before, government employees didn't pay into Social Security.  They do now.  According to my research and calculations that same officer is getting $2,523 per month in pension, plus $1,200ish in Social Security and, since government employees can retire after 25 years, most get a second job and get a second pension.  This is called double dipping.
 
In short, the people who are living on $1,200 per month Social Security and got a 1.15% increase are paying for city employees who, in some cases, are getting as much as $6,850 per month pensions.  Of the top 10 pensions in the police and fire plan, four are between $6,490 and $6,850 per month.  The other six are getting between $5,540 and $5,861 per month.  Don't you wish your pension was $82,400 a year?
 
Ten years ago Mark Lagerkvist, of Watchdog.org wrote several articles on how much money county sheriffs were making across the state. Those articles were also published by CNBNews. 

New Jersey Watchdog found that three-fourths of the county sheriffs in the state are double-dipping, an apparently legal and widespread practice.  Those sheriffs – and their annual double-takes, rounded off to the nearest thousand – include:

 
Please note, the individuals mentioned above and below deserve every penny they are getting, they worked for that money and the benefits they are receiving, and have done nothing wrong. It is the system that is broken. 
 
Included below are the names of the top 10 pension retirees who worked for either the  Gloucester City Police Department or the Gloucester City Fire Department. If there are any mistakes please bring it to my attention. Check back soon for details of the other pension plans.
 
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EDITOR'S NOTE: We are working on several articles that hopefully will be finished this week. One article pertains to questions for the city council candidates running in the Nov. 2 election. For that article we are waiting for the Custodian of Records, Vanessa Parent to answer our OPRA request pertaining to line items in the 2021 Friendly Budget. She in turn is waiting for the City's Financial Officer to explain what the numbers mean.

Specifically, we have questions about Compensation for the 7 part-time members of the governing body. The document states: Total personnel cost $53,468; Base pay $8,500; Overtime and other compensation $28,452; Health benefits, net of cost share, $13,258; Employment taxes and other benefits $3,258. We are inquiring too about health benefits for city employees who have retired. Under Retirees-Health Benefits-Annual costs Covered members, 75; Total current costs, $1,940,840. Our first answer to our OPRA stated there were 65 retirees and the total cost for retirees health benefits was not available.  The last salary ordinance we found June 7, 2021, stated the compensation for mayor, $2,500, council member $1,000.

Excerpts of those sections of the Friendly Budget appear below. Also below, is the latest salary ordinance along with the salary ordinance for the position of police chief/city administrator. 

 

Click on the images from the Friendly Budget to read

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