Shawano—Taxpayers United of America (TUA) today released the results of its study of the Shawano County, Shawano Municipal, and Shawano government school employees.
“The State of Wisconsin refuses to release actual pension payments in an effort to hide the huge subsidies from taxpayers. We can’t let them get away with that so we estimate the pensions for current government employees, giving taxpayers an idea of what their ‘public servants’ get paid not to work,” stated Jim Tobin, president of TUA.
“The Shawano School Board embarks on its annual meeting, better known as a pep rally for their government employee supporters. As they will shortly present their budgets, you can expect to find holes and unanswered questions regarding exactly how approximately 75% to 80% of your property tax dollars are being spent.”
“This is precisely why we are here now, releasing the salaries and pension estimates for the Shawano government school employees. If you recall, last year, the board intended to increase property taxes to make up for the loss of revenue from the state. In a series of planned procedural moves, they prevented taxpayers from debating the issue at all. They railroaded us into doing what they wanted to preserve their benefits. It is important for you to know how much each of these bureaucrats receives and how much they will cost the taxpayers when they retire with their million-dollar pensions.”
“Even with the recent, positive reforms implemented in Wisconsin, there is a long way to go to fix the pension problem here in Wisconsin. Looking at the top salaries in Shawano and estimating pensions for those employees, it is easy to see that a system that pays so many millions of dollars to people who do absolutely nothing is unsustainable. About 80% of local taxes go to pay salaries and benefits of government employees. As more retirees have to be paid out of that 80%, less money is available to pay current employees for the services we need today.”
“Wisconsin, like all state pension systems, gets away with very loose standards in calculating their pension system’s health. Unlike pensions in the private sector, government pension fund assets are over-stated. But when new accounting standards go into effect next year, even Wisconsin which boasts a fully-funded pension system, will be underfunded by billions of dollars.”
“But typical taxpayers can’t even fathom billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities. But when the average taxpayer sees the disparity between the average Shawano wage of about $29,000 per year with 7.5% unemployment and the salaries and pensions of the government bureaucrats they fund, there is no confusion over why government pay and benefits are unsustainable.”
“Todd Carlson, who will run at least portions of the school board meeting as the board’s president, has a salary of $135,294*. That salary reflects about a 5.7% increase since our last study here in Shawano. On top of that, he gets about $38,164 in fringe benefits – each year. His estimated annual pension including Social Security benefits, is $123,662** and his estimated lifetime payout is a stunning $2,596,895***.”
“Gary Cumberland, another Shawano government school administrator, gets an annual salary of $110,897 plus $34,538 in fringe benefits. His estimated lifetime pension payout including Social Security benefits is a cool $2,184,464 based on his estimated combined annual pension and Social Security payments of $104,022.”
“While our pension estimates are a very useful education tool, I encourage Shawano and all Wisconsin taxpayers to demand the right to review pension payments, especially since taxpayers, until the recent changes, have funded nearly 100% of the pensions and healthcare premiums on behalf of government employees. I have written letters to Governor Walker and every member of the state legislature, urging them to stop hiding pension payments from taxpayer review.”
“Lawmakers aren’t even willing to answer questions about the secrecy surrounding pension payments. Wisconsin Reporter Bureau Chief, Matt Kittle said about the statute:
‘Wisconsin Reporter on Tuesday attempted to contact several state lawmakers asking why Wisconsin keeps pension information private while so many other states shine a light. None responded to the question as of this post.’
So not only are they hiding behind a secrecy law, they are hiding from the press to even answer to the public.”
“And here in Shawano County, a government bureaucrat has stalled our legal request for salary information for over a month. Thomas Madsen of the Shawano County administrative office has refused to provide the salaries for county employees in a series of stalls and excuses, designed to make us give up. Mr. Madsen assumed we would get frustrated and go away. We did not. Please give Mr. Madsen a call (715-526-4641, email@example.com) and let him know what you think about his blatant attempts to conceal the salaries that you, the taxpayers, are funding.”
“Wisconsin needs not only to be more transparent, but to continue with pension reforms that will bring its government employee benefits in line with those of the private sector. Specifically, government pensions need to be replaced with 401k-style retirement savings accounts where taxpayer contributions are made when the conditions allow it. Government employees need to increase their contributions to match the level of the private sector, and government retirees and employees need to pay for at least half of their health-care premiums.”
*Gross wages provided by government administrator and may include overtime or PTO that would not be eligible for pension calculation.
**Annual Pension Estimate Assumptions:
1. Assumes employee retires one year from now and this salary would be the second to last salary.
2. Assumes 41 or more years of employment, retirement age is 65, and pension is 70%
3. Plus Social Security assuming 4% salary increases over last 35 years.
***Lifetime Pension Estimate uses IRS Life Expectancy Table (Form 590) at age 65 = 21 years