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Longevity pay is money better used elsewhere

February 18, 2010

If you work as a Walpole police officer for at least 25 years, you automatically receive a hefty payment of $875 upon your 25th anniversary of service. Even if you work just 5 years, you get a bonus of $475. Add that to the thousands of dollars you already earn in detail work and overtime, and you can see why being a Walpole police officer is actually quite lucrative.

No wonder more than half of the Walpole Police Force earns more than $100,000 per year.

The police aren’t the only ones earning nice bonuses for merely sticking around. It clearly pays to work for the Town of Walpole, thanks to clauses in various union contracts that permit town employees to collect longevity payments. Personnel Bylaws require the town to reward employees for their years of service – compensation that is largely unheard of in the private sector. In fact, there is no mechanism for rewarding town employees for their performance or for saving their department and the town money.

The longevity payments are funds that can be used to purchase textbooks for the school department, or even lower parking, athletic, activity, and lunch fees at the schools. Instead, they are being used to reward our government employees for simply working a long time when the rest of us get squeezed with higher fees.

We all know how hard our municipal employees work. I go to the Walpole Public Library regularly, and the staff is very hard working. Town Hall employees are always friendly and helpful. They work hard and love their jobs. Police officers and firefighters are incredible people.

But when Walpole is struggling to cover its costs, and is cutting tremendously in other areas of the budget, it is time to put a stop to the practice of providing longevity payments. As the Las Vegas Sun wrote in December, “Longevity pay is a holdover from days when governments didn’t pay particularly well.” Now, those days are long gone. Being a government worker is actually fairly profitable, even in a small municipality like Walpole. I know the unions had to make painful decisions this past year in health care and other costs. But the town needs to stand up for its taxpayers next time and push for an elimination of the longevity payments. Few businesses reward their employees with these lucrative bonuses – there is no reason why the town should. My radio producer has not missed a day of work since 2000. I think he’s one who would deserve a good longevity payment, but too bad my radio station is in the private sector. When none of us can afford longevity payments, our town can’t afford them either!

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