Sunday, October 01, 2006

Somebody Check My Math

Before I do a lengthy post about why I'm opposed to an across the board pay raise for city workers--it's a slap in the face to laid off employees and a mistake for the city--I want to make sure that I'm doing the math correctly. The math is necessary because I couldn't find the answers to some rather obvious questions anywhere on the city's website, not even on the Recovery Deniability Matrix. Since almost everyone would agree that pay raises are needed for police officers and firemen, one obvious question would be how much of the administration's $11M pay plan is optional, i.e. for civilian (defining civilian employees as any employees other than police officers or fire fighters) employees? Since the layoffs mainly occurred at the lower end of the pay scale, how deserving are the remaining employees? Or, what is the average pay for the remaining civilian employees?

From the Sept. 19, Times Picayune:
Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfield said the total package of increases, including the already-implemented police raises, would cost the city $3.1 million for the last four months of 2006 and $11 million for all of 2007.

The pay increases for police officers and fire fighters are for the last four months of the year, the pay raises for civilian employees are for the last two months. Setting up the equations is easy enough, but I haven't solved simultaneous equations since the 70's, maybe the 80's. With x being the monthly cost of pay increases for police and fire fighters and y being the monthly cost of pay increases for civilian employees, we have:

4x + 2y=3,100,000


12x + 12y= 11,000,000

solve for y in terms of x




plug into the second equation:

12x + 12(1,550,000-2x)=11,000,000

12x + 18,600,000-24x=11,000,000



solve for y

4x + 2y=3,100,000

2,533,333 + 2y=3,100,00



From the above we can infer that in the mayor's pay plan, the yearly cost of pay increases for police and fire fighters is about $7.6M (69% of the total) and the cost for civilian employees would be about $3.4M (31%) of the total. That would actually seem to make sense, again it's nearly impossible to find exact employment or salary figures. The latest employment figures that I have are no longer available on line and they don't seem to match some recent statements from the city, but I did type them out in an earlier post. After the layoffs, the city had about 1300 employees in civilian departments, but it also had some civilian employees in the police and fire departments and it's also done some rehiring. If the city's not making up numbers, we can reasonably infer about 300 civilian employees* in the police department--after the layoffs, a number I've always questioned. It's recently been reported that the city has about 1400 police officers and the city had 751 fire fighters in November. So the proportions would seem to be about right, but we can't be sure, for reasons that I'll explain.

However, there's a major flaw with the problem as I've set it up: the city has plans to hire about 300 new police officers; it's also recruiting fire fighters, but I'm unaware of a target goal. Set up the second equation as 13x + 12 = 11,000,000 and the equations seem incompatible. Raise it above 13x and you have real problems. At least I believe that's the case, I don't have great confidence in my mathematical abilities. Well, Warren Riley did say that:
It's a long process to hire 300 police officers. That will take us probably two and a half, three years

Either he doesn't plan on doing much of it in the first year, or Brenda Hatfield defines "about $11M" very loosely.

The numbers are also useless for determining the relative pay of police officers and civilian employees from those numbers alone. If the city has 1700-1800 civilian employees (about 1300 in civilian departments after the layoffs, 300 or so in the police department, some in the fire department and some rehires) those figures would imply that police and fire fighters earn far more than civilian employees. However the proposed pay increases are only for classified workers, without knowing how many of the city's employees are classified and how many are unclassified, we can tell very little from Brenda Hatfield's estimated costs. From the little I do know, the numbers don't seem to add up. At the very least, they don't seem to account for the cost of hiring more police officers and fire fighters.

It would seem that nobody's asked the mayor or his CAO some obvious questions. What's the breakdown on the cost of the pay raises? How much of the projected cost is for police and fire fighters and how much for other employees? How do the average pay for both types of employees compare? How much do the remaining civilian employees make on average? Should the city give all of its civilian employees pay raises at this point? Are the estimated costs compatible with new hiring in the police and fire departments? What will the costs be when unclassified employees invariably get raises to go along with the pay increases for classified employees.

I can't really blame the Times Picayune. If a reporter doesn't have an interview with the mayor or his CAO, he can only report on the answers to the questions that the city council asks. If the council doesn't ask the questions, a journalist can't report the answers. Bruce Eggler, the Picayune reporter on this story, practically drew them
At the other end of the scale, the raises would handsomely benefit Nagin's well-paid executive staff, many of whom earn more than $100,000 annually.

a map
The 10 percent raise before the council applies only to classified workers, but the administration and council are expected to support an ordinance providing the same increase to unclassified employees, meaning mayoral appointees not covered by Civil Service.

The issue hasn't come before the full City Council yet, but the budget committee didn't seem very inquisitive. With Cynthia Willard-Lewis along to make sure its regular members--Stacy Head, Arnie Fielkow and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell-- didn't miss any important questions, none thought to ask Brenda Hatfield whether the city could afford Nagin's expensive plan to show Nick Felton who was alpha male. Instead, they came up with an even more expensive plan to keep everybody happy. They seem to have adopted the mayor's attitude that it's okay to run up the city's debt because everything will be fine once the city's ship comes in.

*According to figures the city released when it announced the layoffs, the Police Department had about 2300 employees before Katrina, close to 1700 were police officers, the department laid off about 300 employees, all of whom were civilian employees. If transparency means having to piece together facts from year old articles and math you have used in 25-30 years, I can imagine what things would be like without that transparency pledge.

I think it very likely that the cost of new hires for police and fire is included. That would in the budget be a base cost. Something they were going to do any way so the cost was budgeted already. The pay raise is increase in cost over the previous pay level.

My two cents.
I'm not sure that I follow you. If they were already buggetting for the increased pay for police and firemen, the cost for next year would be six times this year. If they had only budgetted for higher pay for recruits, it might make sense. I only bothered with the math because I was trying to figure out what the average pay is for the remaining civilian employees, since most of the cuts took place at the lower end of the scale, it's alegit question. I couldn't find any information on the subject and the city councilmen that I wrote didn't respond to my email.

Once I did the math I decided the numbers looked suspicious or I'm greatly under estimating the pay for the remaining employees. Unless a very high percentage of the remaining employees are unclassified, in which the total cost will be much greater when they get their raises.

The mayor and Dr. Hatfield do have a history of using very imprecise or inexact numbers. I hope that the city council isn't overly impressed by her title. I wouldn't knock any advanced degree, but her phd. isn't in finance or business. It's in education and her master's degree is in library science. Basically, I want to know what the pay for the average employee who's receiving a raise is. If they vote for the raise without even asking that simple question, I'll be tempted to wash my hands of New Orleans.
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