Friday, April 25, 2008

FOIA Friday - April 25, 2008

Did you ever wonder how much a public employee earns? The refuse worker who picks up your trash, the police officer who patrols your neighborhood, or the receptionist who answered your call to the city? It's a matter of public record.

Union contracts, which contain pay rates for public employees, are voted upon by the local jurisdictions so they are part of the public record. In Toledo, they are included in the Toledo Municipal Code, as a simple review of the chapter titles will show.

For the Lucas County Commissioners, a keyword search of 'union' under their resolution reports will give you all the approved contracts within your specified time frame. As the County Commissioners must approve all county contracts, union agreements for all the other county officials are covered on this link.

As all jurisdictions vote on their union contracts, they should be available as part of the meeting minutes.

If it's a specific employee you're curious about, a phone call to the human resources department is all that should be required to find the hourly rate. In fact, everything except social security numbers and, for certain employees, the address, is public, so if you want to know the information on an employee's W-2, you can get it.

Knowing how much public employees are paid - and what their benefits are - is often key to understanding budgets. One of the largest expenses in Toledo's budget is for the employee pension. As I explained in this post from January 2007, Toledo 'picks up' the employee's contribution in addition to paying the mandated employer's portion. The pension pick up became a critical point of discussion in the 3/4% payroll income tax renewal vote last year, as residents rightly wondered why they're paying their own pensions while also paying everything for the public employees.

Knowing what was contained within the union contracts and sharing that information with the public generated the election debate about how much our city employees were actually costing - and why our city budget was so high.

Taking advantage of access to public records helps you keep your government accountable - and sometimes you'll be shocked by what you find.


Robin said...

One (of many) things that irritates me (and I could be wrong about this) but, I'm under the impression that the median wage for a city employee is much higher than the median wage of the average citizen. Somehow, it just doesn't seem fair that people who are suppose to be working for me, make way more money and get better benefits than I do.

Maggie Thurber said...

Robin - I don't recall the exact amount, but the median wage for City of Toledo employees (half make more, half make less) was around $45,000 - plus the nearly $30,000 in benefits which include pension, medical, vacation, sick days, etc.

The median wage in Toledo, according to the Census Bureau, was around $32,000...

yeah - I'm with you!

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