Jefferson Davis is a longtime resident of Menomonee Falls. He is the proud parent of two wonderful boys. He enjoys singing, volunteering, reading, gardening, politics, antiques, history, guitar, violin, piano, officiating, helping neighbors and yard work. He served as Village President of Menomonee Falls from 2003-05. He is a member of Northbrook Church and serves on the Advisory Council for the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center. He is an independent registered representative practicing in the areas of insurance, investments and retirement.
Many thanks for all of the comments, suggestions and ideas for The Vanguard over the last 6-7 weeks. With this posting, we will have enjoyed over 12,000 hits for our columns so far. We promise to keep reporting stories in a fair and balanced way to inform the taxpayers who pay the annual $30 million tab for the privilege of living, working and having a business in the Falls as to what is really going on in their community with their Village Government.
The Vanguard has been asked to look into the apparent failure of a costly computer program that the taxpayers were asked to purchase by the former Police Chief in 2004 that requires the Police Department and the Municipal Court to use the "old computer system" for numerous tasks because the new program, The Phoenix, hasn't worked properly for the last four (4) years.
The Vanguard has asked the new police chief for information on this issue and will gladly report the findings once the details are obtained.
US Senator Dirksen Had it Right on Out of Control Government Spending
Everett Dirksen served in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate from 1933-1969 for the State of Illinois. He was well respected and oversaw many government spending programs in his 36 years of service.
He was most famous for the following quote regarding out of control federal government spending, "A billion here and a billion there and all of sudden it's real money." Unfortunately, the likes of Senator Dirksen did little to control federal government spending which has greatly contributed to the more than $9 trillion debt that we currently have in America (http://www.askquestions.org/details.php?id=75&gclid=CPfqmOeFn5UCFQQiIgod6gf2aw).
Government at all levels too often fall into this type of thinking because it is so easy to spend someone else's money when there is little or no oversight or accountability for those expenditures for the Village Board to just get along with the unions in hopes of getting re-elected without any challenges for an official's seat or else.
A little known policy of the Village Board for employees is a true reflection of the Board's mentality when it comes to this type of thinking for spending the taxpayer's money with very little if any coverage from the three (3) local newspapers over the last 20-25 years.
Former and disgraced Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament and his assistants were held accountable for excessive unused sick leave lump sum cash payouts to county retirees in the last 5-6 years that cost the taxpayers of Milwaukee County over $30 million from 2001-2002 and ultimately lead to the resignation of the County Executive and many others who may have been criminally prosecuted for this gross indulgence.
The taxpayers are still paying for these payouts today and will continue to pay for them for many years to come. The total payouts are $137 million so far according to published reports.
This has put a great strain on the budget for Milwaukee County without any choice but to pay them when these funds could have been used for many other purposes instead of cash in the pockets of the select few. Thank goodness County Executive Scott Walker was able to get this stopped for new employees to the County.
A reader asked about the announced retirement of State Representative Sue Jeskewitz later this year and whether or not she would be taking her payout for health care in retirement at the taxpayer's expense. More on that later.
The reader also asked for an update on the Village Board Policy for unused sick leave cash payouts to Village Retirees that has been unreported by the three (3) local newspapers over the last several years at considerable expense to the taxpayers each year.
Village Board Sick Leave Policy Examined
The Village Board has to approve contracts for the village employee groups on a regular basis (every 2-3 years). The taxpayers pay an unheard of amount of money for these negotiations as outside legal counsel is hired to hopefully protect the best interests of the taxpayers which sometimes comes under question when these approved contracts are examined a little more closely (http://126.96.36.199/search?q=cache:LNlXyISmUMcJ:werc.wi.gov/interest_awards/int_pre-99_vol_2_of_2/int26581.pdf+sick+leave+menomonee+falls&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=us).
Unfortunately, the three local newspapers provide very little if any coverage to the taxpayers of these contracts when they are being negotiated and or once they are approved by the Village Board.
This posting has nothing with the good people of the Village Employee Staff who do a good job of providing our services on a daily basis, but it does have everything to do with the Village Board who sets public policy at the taxpayer's expense.
The Vanguard reviewed the 2004-06 Employee Contracts for the Village Board unused sick leave policy and found the following information:*
Telecommunication Association Local 510 - shall receive up to 22 weeks or 5 1/2 months cash payout upon retirement or death for any unused sick leave at the hourly rate being paid to the employee at the time of retirement or death. Can accumulate an additional 15 days of sick leave annually not to exceed a cumulative amount of 110 days.
Police Support Specialists Association Local 813 - shall receive up to 22 weeks or 5 1/2 months cash payout upon retirement or death for any unused sick leave at the hourly rate being paid to the employee at the time of retirement or death. Can accumulate an additional 15 days of sick leave annually to an unlimited amount. If an employee accumulates 17 weeks or 4 1/4 months of sick leave and doesn't use any sick leave for six (6) consecutive months they shall be entitled to a bonus vacation day.
International Association of Firefighters Local 3879 - shall receive up to 26.40 weeks or 6.6 months cash payout upon retirement or death for any unused sick leave at the hourly rate being paid to the employee at the time of retirement or death. Can accumulate an additional 18 days of sick leave annually to an unlimited amount.
Municipal Employees Union Local 31 - shall receive up to 22 weeks or 5 1/2 months cash payout upon retirement or death for any unused sick leave at the hourly rate being paid to the employee at the time of retirement or death. Can accumulate an additional 15 days of sick leave annually not to exceed a cumulative amount of 110 days.
Non-represented Employees - shall receive up to 22 weeks or 5 1/2 months cash payout upon retirement or death for any unused sick leave at the salary earned at the time of retirement or death. Can accumulate an additional 15 days of sick leave annually to an unlimited amount. If an employee accumulates 17 weeks or 4 1/4 months of sick leave and doesn't use any sick leave for six (6) consecutive months they shall be entitled to a bonus vacation day with a maximum of two (2) bonus vacation days a year. After probationary period, employee will be granted 3 1/2 personal days and may be used for any purpose.
*The Vanguard has repeatedly requested additional information for this Village Board Policy from the Village Manager's Office to include 2007 and 2008 over the last year and has yet to receive any information from that Office. Once it is received, it will be passed on.
In addition to the Village Board Sick Leave Policy, the Village Board also has a policy for vacation, holidays, maternity leave and Family Medical Leave Act.
Most Village Employees, depending on the number of years of service, get anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks of paid vacation.
Most Village Employees also get the following 11 1/2 paid holidays:*
New Year's Day
The day after Thanksgiving
1/2 or all of Christmas Eve
1/2 or all of New Year's Eve
3 1/2 floating holidays
*Some employees who work on these holidays are paid overtime.
The Village Board policy also includes the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 where an employee can take up to 12 weeks off for the care of a spouse, parent or child without pay.
$5 Million Taxpayer Tab for Unused Sick Leave Backdrop Pension Cash Payouts to Retirees
The Vanguard has reviewed many Village documents involving these payouts since 1990 and has found the following information very interesting.
According to Village Hall documents and communications released to the public over the last couple of years, the tab for the taxpayers for unused sick leave cash payouts since 1990 and for future unused sick leave cash payouts that is considered an "unfunded liability", is approximately $5 million.
The following is a summary of unused sick leave backdrop pension cash payouts to retirees since 1990 at the taxpayer's expense:*
1990 payout total:$123,499.18. 8 payouts with the lowest being $7,318.48 and the highest being $25,278.96 for an average of $15,437.40.
1991 payout total: $ 29,436.34. 2 payouts with the lowest being $14,626.90 and the highest being $14,809.44 for an average of $14,718.17.
1992 payout total: $ 34,734.72. 2 payouts with the lowest being $13,010.16 and the highest being $21,724.56 for an average of $17,367.36.
1993 payout total: $ 80,590.00. 6 payouts with the lowest being $1,801.80 and the highest being $18,515.20 for an average of $13,431.67.
1994 payout total: $ 57,339.65. 5 payouts with the lowest being $377.25 and the highest being $16,755.20 for an average of $11,467.93.
1995 payout total: $ 62,845.65. 4 payouts with the lowest being $8,347.25 and the highest being $20,389.60 for an average of $15,711.41.
1996 payout total: $ 42,709.04. 5 payouts with the lowest being $99.28 and the highest being $14,335.20 for an average of $10,677.26.
1997 payout total: $ 73,198.40. 4 payouts with the lowest being $14,889.60 and the highest being $22,228.80 for an average of $18,299.60.
1998 payout total: $188,165.14. 9 payouts with the lowest being $10,507.20 and the highest being $32,908.60 for an average of $20,907.24.
1999 payout total: $217,510.03. 9 payouts with the lowest being $15,998.40 and the highest being $31,922.88 for an average of $24,167.78.
2000 payout total: $119,715.22. 5 payouts with the lowest being $22,430.45 and the highest being $25,273.60 for an average of $23,943.04.
2001 payout total: $162,068.21. 8 payouts with the lowest being $9,947.76 and the highest being $32,535.94 for an average of $20,258.53.
2002 payout total: $ 73,579.80. 4 payouts with the lowest being $16,893.47 and the highest being $21,507.20 for an average of $18,394.95.
2003 payout total: $ 67,272.18. 3 payouts with the lowest being $17,736.98 and the highest being $26,796.00 for an average of $22,424.06.
2004 payout total: $123,060.35. 5 payouts with the lowest being $7,219.46 and the highest being $46,092.09 for an average of $24,612.07.
2005 payout total: $110,545.89. 5 payouts with the lowest being $8,019.12 and the highest being $28,747.57 for an average of $22,109.18.
2006 payout total: $ 88,260.15. 3 payouts with the lowest being $22,774.40 and the highest being $36,872.13 for an average of $29,420.05.
2007 payout total: $ 69,060.00 for the Village Manager who retired for the second time after he had retired once before in 1996.
*The Vanguard has repeatedly requested an update for this Village Board Policy from the Village Manager's Office over the last year for 2007 and 2008 and has yet to receive any information from that Office. Once it is received, it will be passed on. Including the 2007 and 2008 cash payouts to retirees, it is estimated the taxpayers will have paid out over $2 million since 1990.
The Village's Finance Director in a memo released to the public in 2006 put the "unfunded liability" for future unused sick leave cash lump sum payouts for current employees at $3 million when they retire.
The Finance Director also stated that the Village budgets $120,000 from the taxpayers each year to cover retirements with anything over that presumably coming from the Taxpayer's Surplus Account of some $10 million or with leftover monies from the End of Year Operating Results.
Justification for Unused Sick Leave Cash Payouts by Village Officials in 2006 Questioned
When this policy was confronted by the Citizens Budget and Advisory Committee (CBAC) looking for ways to save the taxpayers money in early 2006 with the Village Manager, it was explained by the Village Manager that this policy was absolutely necessary because the Village did not have disability insurance coverage and was done in lieu of paying for retiree's health insurance for their lifetime at retirement since the 1960's.
The CBAC, in a memo released to the public in 2006, state that, "...our study in the early 90's showed this benefit far exceeded comparable communities' policies" and recommended that the policy should be dropped or greatly reduced for new hires and revised for current employees.
Was anything done by the Village Board with the CBAC's recommendation? Do horses fly?
The only problem with the Village Manager's explanation of not having disability insurance for Village Employees is that it is totally false.
The Village does have disability insurance coverage for Village Employees that has been in place for decades at the taxpayer's expense with Village Employees contributing nothing toward the disability insurance coverage premiums.
The taxpayers, on behalf of the Village Employees, have been paying into the Wisconsin Retirement System's (WRS) Disability Insurance 40.65 Program (www.etf.wi.gov) for decades at no cost to Village Employees.
The Village, according to a Human Resources Department memo in late 2006, has at least three (3) Village Employees on disability at the taxpayer's expense with one employee being on disability since 1994 and the other two since 2002 and 2004 respectively from the Police Department.
Why would Village Officials say something that they know is absolutely not true and get away with it from the three (3) local newspapers without being held accountable by the Village Board who knew this to be untrue as well?
The Village's Benefit Analyst at the time made this a priority for the Village Board to look at additional disability insurance coverage for the various Village Employee Groups in lieu of unused sick leave cash payouts because it would be much more affordable for the taxpayers to purchase additional disability insurance coverage for Village Employees than to pay out between $100,000 - $200,000 a year in unused sick leave cash payouts.
The Benefit Analyst also suggested to the Village Board at the time to implement Health Savings Accounts (HSA's) for all Village Employee Groups that have been available to municipalities for almost five years (5) as a way to substantially lower health care premiums while maintaining the best of coverage which is what the City of Brookfield and Waukesah County have done for their employee groups. This benefit can be used in retirement at no cost to the taxpayers.
The Benefit Analyst also tried to implement a wellness program with proven results similar to those in Germantown (http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:ZlgTrP4MReoJ:www.village.germantown.wi.us/PDFs/VillageBoard20080505Minutes.pdf+sick+leave+menomonee+falls&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=42&gl=us) but was met with great resistance from certain members of the Village Board wanting to know how much he was going to "make" off of the program which was nothing except for the gratifiacation of having a healthier employee group for the Village that saved the taxpayers a ton of money with less employee claims and lower premiums.
Seriously, does this Village Board get this at all?
Of course, as it has been documented in The Vanguard's earlier posting in the month of August, "A Really Good Deal Gone Bad, reeeeeeally bad!" (www.menomoneefallsnow.com), the Village Board, led by Trustee Ellis' evaluation system which took the decision out of the hands of the Village's Administrators who always handled these matters in the past, fired the benefit analyst in late 2006 for coming up with such great ideas to lessen the burden for taxpayers while maintaining excellent benefits for Village Employee Groups.
In the words of the Village Manger at the time to the Benefit Analyst, "You were fired for pure political reasons."
The current Village President apparently threw his hands up with a defeatist attitude regarding the matter and was quoted in December 2006 in Menomonee Falls News as saying, "...little can be done to revise sick leave." Now that's leadership, especially when every community in southeastern Wisconsin is constantly looking at ways to change this policy along with those in the private sector who don't even have the benefit or have eliminated it to keep costs down.
Even Germantown just recently changes their policy for unused sick leave (http://www.germantownnow.com/story/index.aspx?id=779808).
So something can be done Mr. President to "revise" sick leave.
The excuse for providing such a benefit to those public employees who retire in their 50's has always been that they need to pay for their "expensive" health insurance premiums in retirement.
Truth be told, these retirees always seem to get a new job in retirement with health benefits or go on their spouse's plan or are hired back by the Village with health coverage of which the Village had five (5) such employees as of 2006.
No one retires without knowing if they have health coverage in retirement.
Those that retire at age 65 or later are automatically covered by Medicare which is primarily paid for by the taxpayers with an additional supplemental plan.
The Village Manager's Office was asked for an update for 2007 and 2008 over the last year and the Office has yet to provide any updates.
It really seems like the lottery for most people looking at this objectively.
In the words of Russian Comedian Yakov Smirnoff, "What a country."
Other Communities Weigh in on their Unused Sick Leave Policy
The Vanguard reviewed a Village Hall document released to the public in 2006 from Carlson Dettmann Consulting about other communities and their unused sick leave policy.
The following will illustrate what other communities are doing with different employee contracts:
West Bend - 12 days a year accumulated at a maximum of 120 days at retirement to be paid out in cash for 50% of those days (60 days) at the hourly rate of retirement or paid to a Post Retirement Health Plan.
Greenfield - 12 days a year accumulated at a maximum of 150-200 days at retirement to be paid out in cash of no more than 50-75 days at the hourly rate of retirement with at least 5-15 years of experience.
New Berlin - 12 days a year accumulated at a maximum of 132-264 days at retirement to be paid out in cash for 50% of those days at the hourly rate of retirement or for post retirement health insurance.
Franklin - 12 days a year accumulated at a maximum of 180 days. No cash payouts or health insurance credits at or in retirement.
Mequon - 12 days a year accumulated at a maximum of 180 days at retirement to be converted to one month of insurance for each 10 days of accumulated sick leave.
Muskego - 15 days a year accumulated at a maximum of 250 days at retirement to be paid out in cash for 120 days for employees hired prior to 11-1-88 and 90 days for employees hired after 1-1-88 at the hourly rate at retirement.
Oak Creek - 6-12 days a year accumulated at a maximum of 110-880 days at retirement to be paid out in cash at a maximum of 45 days with at least 5 or more years of experience at the hourly rate at retirement.
Brown Deer - 15 days a year accumulated at a maximum of 120 days at retirement to be paid out in cash for 75 days for employees with at least 15 years of experience at the hourly rate at retirement.
Germantown - 12-15 days a year accumulated at a maximum of 150-187.5 days at retirement to be paid out in cash at a maximum of 50% of those days (75) at the hourly rate at retirement.
The Village of Menomonee Falls is clearly the most generous for unused sick leave backdrop pension cash payouts to Village Retirees.
The Vanguard has interviewed many private sector companies in Menomonee Falls and was not able to find one company that offered sick leave to their employees. If the employee gets sick, they take the day off without pay or use vacation.
Most school districts give their employees 10-15 days of paid sick leave each year, but do not pay them a lump sum cash payout at retirement. The sick days are either used or lost at retirement and can not be carried over for a cash payout.
Some Private Sector and State of Wisconsin Sick Leave Policies Revealed
Merrill Lynch reduced their unused sick leave policy from 40 days a year to 3 days in 2007 (http://www.boston.com/business/globe/articles/2007/05/24/merrill_lynch_cuts_sick_days_from_40_to_3/) because of the high cost to the firm.
Michael Crowley, Reader's Digest (www.rd.com), disclosed in his December 2005 article, "That's Outrageous!: Just Sick of It", that this is an epidemic for many cities and states across America and has gone unchecked because citizens believed their elected officials were looking out for the taxpayer's best interest and not just that of the public employee union groups.
Once the benefit is in place, it can be very difficult to get it removed unless there is good leadership on local councils and boards that are willing to do the right thing.
Some examples are:
One teacher in the Chicago Public Schools retired after 35 years and cashed out at $133,000 for unused sick leave.
A police department personnel cashed out after 42 years for $60,000 in Massachusetts.
The City of Dallas paid out $6.2 million to retirees in 2002 alone for unused sick leave.
Local governments in the greater Boston area paid nearly $30 million to retirees one year in the early 2000's.
The State of Pennsylvania gave retired state employees $32 million between 2001-02.
The State of Wisconsin's unused sick leave perk for public officials was uncovered in late 2006 when it was discovered that numerous current and former politicians were in line to receive the following payouts for health insurance premiums at retirement or when they left office:
Supreme Court Chief Justice Abrahamson $447,500.
Governor Doyle $169,500 who wants to keep his perk (http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=536841)
Governor Thompson $290,797
Governor McCallum $230,920
AG Lautenschlager $49,000
Secretary of State LaFollette $163,000
State Treasurer Voight $43,000
School Superintendent Burmaster $37,000
Lt Governor Lawton $17,000
Menomonee Falls State Senator Darling (R-River Hills), Menomonee Falls State Senator Kanavas (R-Brookfield) and Menomonee Falls State Representative Pridemore (R-Hartford) have informed The Vanguard that they will waive this perk for themselves.
Menomonee Falls State Representative Jeskewitz is the only Menomonee Falls state elected official who outright refuses to declare that she will waive this perk.
Instead, she says in an earlier communication to The Vanguard, "I will work to make sure there is a policy and clear procedure to track and account for sick time, just as we have in place for state employees." The Vanguard contacted the State Representative for this posting to see if she had changed her mind now that she is retiring at the end of the year and she did not respond.
The Vanguard will monitor the situation to see if the Representative takes the payout in retirement or not in 2009.
Even some of the democrats on the state and national level realize this is a perk whose time is near the end of its life and should be eliminated.
State Representative Sheldon Wasserman (D-Milwaukee) said, "I think it's a perk the average citizen in this country doesn't get, and it should end...Sick leave is for when you're sick." Wasserman is a candidate for the senate seat currently held by Alberta Darling in the November 2008 Election for Menomonee Falls.
Former NBC Anchor Tim Russert, in his book "Big Russ and Me" (www.bigrussandme.com), recalled a "life lesson" from his deceased father who was a garbage truck driver for the City of Buffalo regarding an unused sick leave cash payout that he was to get at retirement.
When Tim asked his dad why he wasn't using some of his 100-200 sick days before he retired and why he wasn't taking a cash payout at retirement, his dad simply said, "Because I wasn't sick and those days are only to be used when you are sick and not for cash."
It is obvious that taxpayers can't continue to be asked to foot the bill for these types of perks to public employee union groups.
You can let the Village Board know how you feel about this by visiting the Village website (http://www.menomonee-falls.org/index.asp?nid=292) and sending them an email or by calling them.
Tell us what think
By using the comment section below, please answer our questions regarding unused sick leave cash payouts.
Should there be unused sick leave cash payout at retirement?
Should there be a "use it or lose it" policy for unused sick leave at retirement?
Should the Village Board offer additional disability insurance to employees in lieu of unused sick leave cash payouts?
Should Representative Jeskewitz waive her unused sick leave payout when she retires in 2009?
Should Village Employee Retirees be given some kind of a credit toward health insurance premiums at retirement instead of cash payouts?
Should all new hires be excluded from getting unused sick leave cash payouts when they retire?
Next Week...Why is Menomonee Falls the only community in the area that doesn't have destination signs?