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19 Million Public Employees Cost Taxpayers Nearly $1 Trillion

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About 19 million public employees cost taxpayers nearly $1 trillion annually.

That’s according to OpenTheBooks.com, which publishes the salaries of public employees from every level of U.S. government. The online database is free and accessible to the public.

“Public service is supposed to be about serving the people,” Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of OpenTheBooks.com, said. “However, the good intentions of America’s 19 million public employees come at a very high price for the people – nearly $1 trillion. In many cases, taxpayers generously fund these employee salaries.”

OpenTheBooks.com, one of the largest private databases of government spending, posts “every dime, online” of local, state, and federal government spending in the U.S. that it accesses. For this report, it filed requests and captured data from nearly 60,000 government employers, mapped the information and posted it online over the course of one year.

The data represents about 85 percent of all public employment at every level of government, the site states. The data includes employee name, salary, position title and employer for 2017.

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The search function allows users to view the top 2 million public employees earning more than $95,000. Last year, about 1.7 million government employees earned $100,000 or more per year. State and local governments employed the vast majority of the six-figure earners.

Data also show that 105,000 local and state government employees earned more than every governor of all 50 U.S. states, with a salary of $190,000 or more.

Andrzejewski highlights examples of what he describes as government waste and abuse of taxpayer money. Some Chicago tree trimmers, he points out, earned $106,000 and some New York City school janitors earned $165,000 – more than the principals at the same schools, who earn $135,000.

Some lifeguards in Los Angeles County, California, earned $365,000, while the school superintendent of a small school district in Southlake, Texas, earned $420,000, Andrzejewski notes.

Do you think some public employees are grossly overpaid?

OpenTheBooks.com urges the public to expose “waste, overspending, and bloated government” in their neighborhoods by using the site’s interactive map. Users can search by zip code and scroll down to see results in chart and map form. They can then demand accountability from their local and state governments, the site explains.

Several states exhibit some real humdingers in the field of education.

In California, for example, nearly 10,000 employees of the University of California system earned more than $200,000 – including 65 public employees who earned between $1 million and $3.6 million.

In Illinois public school districts, OpenTheBooks.com partnered with Fox 32 Chicago to investigate school superintendents. The investigation found that the superintendent of Calumet City earned $407,000 for a district with only 1,100 students and no high school. Another superintendent earned $206,000 in the New Lenox district, responsible for only 11 teachers and fewer than 100 students. Another superintendent retired on a $300,000 annual pension from the Park Forest district, and was later rehired on a $1,200-a-day consulting contract for the same position in the same district.

OpenTheBooks.com found that many city administrators, legal/law enforcement, and athletic coaches earned more than any U.S. president (whose salary is $400,000) , and more than their own state’s governor.

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In Florida, the city attorney for Dania Beach, a seaside community of 32,000, was paid $436,917.

In Texas, 356 municipal employees earned more than the state’s governor, Greg Abbott. In the small town of Stanton, Texas (pop. 2,900), the city manager earned $314,696. In Whitesboro (pop. 4,000) and Manvel (pop. 10,000), city administrators earned $312,000 and $292,529, respectively.

Eight police officers and detectives at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey earned between $300,000 and $783,000 last year, according to the database.

Public college football coaches earned far more. Last year, for example, the retired University of Oregon football coach received a $558,689 annual pension, and the fired Arizona State football coach received a $15 million payout. Nick Saban, at the University of Alabama, earned $11 million.

Citizens “must insist on good government where they live,” Andrzejewski argues. “The people have the power to hold local politicians accountable for tax and spend decisions.”

“Remember, it’s your money,” Andrzejewski says. Government payrolls, he argues, are the No. 1 issue affecting state budgets and public services. More money would be accessible for public services, he says, if government salaries and pension benefits weren’t so high.

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The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. A taxpayer sensibility distinguishes our work from other coverage of state and local issues. As a result of this approach, our readers are better informed about the focus of state and local government and its cost to the citizens whose tax dollars fund governmental decisions.
The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States.

The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. A taxpayer sensibility distinguishes our work from other coverage of state and local issues. As a result of this approach, our readers are better informed about the focus of state and local government and its cost to the citizens whose tax dollars fund governmental decisions.

The Center Square is staffed by editors and reporters with extensive professional journalism experience. We engage readers with essential news, data and analysis – delivered with velocity, frequency and consistency.

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