Edward Kerwin’s name is familiar to those who follow municipal affairs. He’s the guy with eight public jobs (he used to have nine), pulling down a combined salary of more than $360,000 last year working as a part-time tax assessor in eight different towns in Somerset and Morris counties.
It’s all legal. And many municipal administrators — as well as some of these multiple job-holders — argue taxpayers are getting a deal because municipalities save money on health benefits and full-time salary costs by hiring another town’s official on a part-time basis.
In Hunterdon County, for example, several municipalities share a tax assessor (David M. Gill: $155,184; seven towns); a Municipal Court clerk and administrator (Cindy C. Hooven: $110,492; six towns); a municipal prosecutor (Robert A. Ballard: $106,378; five towns); a building subcode official (Kevin L. Fleming: $107,139; five towns); a tax collector (Diane Laudenbach: $173,759; five towns); and a judge (Joseph S. Novak: $108,509; five towns).
But some state lawmakers believe there are better ways.
Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-16th District, says municipalities could save a lot more by consolidating services in a joint meeting or allowing county government to provide services. He’s introduced legislation to ease state regulations that make this difficult.
“Rather than have three or four people dominating all the part-time jobs in Somerset County, we could have two or three full-timers that service all of our municipalities. That would be a huge cost saver,” he said.
“Ed Kerwin has enough time to be part-time in eight different towns for $360,000. One full-time person could be the tax assessor for those eight towns for $100,000 a year. He’s getting $360,000 a year not because he’s that good, but because he has eight part-time jobs,” he said.
Throughout the state, 540 public employees boosted their salaries last year with multiple government jobs that topped $100,000 — which will lead to sky-high retirement payments for years to come.
Highly paid multiple job holders took home $74 million in taxpayer money in 2014, down by just $3 million from 2013.
Despite a 2010 reform that only allows public workers to base their pension on their highest salary, current multiple-job holders are grandfathered in. The cost to the pension system if they retired tomorrow: $31 million a year. Times that by 15 years of retirement life, and the pension bubble balloons to nearly half a billion dollars, not counting cost of living increases.
Under the state’s pension system, projected to be billions in debt in the coming years, a public worker’s pension is generally calculated by using the average of highest three years of pay (just one year for veterans). So a pension booster who cobbles together a handful of high-paying jobs at the end of his or her career, will reap more of a reward than an employee with just one job for 30 years.