The state needs to step up and give municipal governments more leverage in negotiating contracts if Massachusetts ever hopes to do away with the sick-time and vacation buyback perks that some in the public sector enjoy.
But community leaders also must do their part by refusing to allow such costly perks into the contracts of non-union employees.
In recent weeks, area residents have learned that Dracut Superintendent of Schools Elaine Espindle stands to receive as much as $95,000 in sick-time and vacation buyback when she leaves June 30. And Lowell’s superintendent of schools, Karla Brooks Baehr, could receive a little more than $50,000 when she steps down at the end of June.
Such lucrative deals are also still factored into many police officer, firefighter, teacher and DPW worker union contracts. Some communities have been able to cap the number of days that can be sold back, but others have failed to make any changes.
When the economy was good and communities were flush with money, the buybacks were still outrageous but not viewed as a significant problem. Today, however, municipalities are being crippled by these golden handshakes.
But we don’t blame the beneficiaries. It’s the school committees, boards of selectmen and city councils that should be faulted for not standing up for taxpayers.
In the same way that such benefits were negotiated into contracts — union by union, position by position — they now must be negotiated out. We know many elected officials won’t have the courage to buck the vote-getting unions, so the state should lend a hand by requiring unions to relinquish these pricey perks.