Launch Slideshow

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Picking up the Pieces

Picking up the Pieces

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Let’s talk benefits first

In 2007, we wrote, “The grass is not greener on the other side: Public works employees have better benefits than private industry.” That year, 59% of the readers who completed our survey agreed. Today, less than half, or 45%, do.

Benefits used to be the main reason for working in the public sector, but now it’s not so good. – Small-town Vermont public works director who makes $75,001 - $80,000.

Everyone thinks government employees have it made, but that’s not so: We’re behind the private sector in pay and benefits. – Mid-size (pop. 250,001-500,000) Wisconsin county planner making $75,001 - $80,000.

They maintained our benefits but premiums increased, causing some to seek alternative insurance or drop insurance altogether. –Urban forestry/parks/public grounds manager in Florida who makes $85,001 - $90,000.

That said, more than two-thirds (72%) say they haven’t lost any benefits and 44% consider their benefits better than most.

The public sector’s increasingly deploying private-sector tricks for keeping the costs of doing business down.

Vis-à-vis benefits:

  • High deductible health plans (HDHP) that essentially cover only catastrophes. For 2013, the IRS limits deductibles to $1,250 (individual) and $2,500 (family); maximum out-of-pocket amounts (deductibles, co-payments, etc.) to $6,250 (individual) and $12,500 (family);
  • Health screening and heath-management coaching; employees who fail to meet certain requirements either won’t receive a reduction in premiums or a stipend toward premiums;
  • Reduction or elimination in 401k or pension contributions to cover the rising cost of health insurance;
  • Sick leave buy-back reductions (one respondent’s fell from 75% to 50%).

We get individual-only coverage, so adding my family is $900 per month out of my check. On the other hand, I get more than a month of vacation on top of holidays. That is the benefit that keeps me here. – California county engineer making $75,001 - $80,000

Vis-à-vis headcount:

  • Replacing full-time job positions with part-time employees, contract consultants, and/or temps where possible.