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Hamtramck’s generous labor contracts finally catch up

In last week’s issue, we published a story about how much some retirees earn each year.

For 51 pensioners, they get at least $45,000 a year, which is twice as much as what the average working Hamtramckan earns.

We didn’t publish this information to badmouth retirees or even suggest that the city find a way to end its pension obligation. We brought this to light to simply show the city cannot afford the $3.5 million a year it spends to support pensions.

Or as Acting City Manager Kyle Tertzag said: It’s unsustainable. In other words, Hamtramck is spending more money than it is taking in.

In fact most of the city’s $18 million budget is spent on supporting employees. How did we get to this?

In the past, city officials agreed to some financially destructive labor contracts, especially with the police and fire unions.

And once those lucrative terms were agreed on, there was no way to undo them without approval of the unions. Hamtramck’s tax dollars goes primarily to employees, leaving very little to invest into maintaining roads and sewers and parks.

Let’s face it, when the average earnings for a firefighter reach $80,000 a year, you know something is out of whack.

It’s disheartening to think what we could have done with the millions of dollars paid out to employees over the years. Instead of worrying about sewers backing up into basements, we could have had ongoing repairs.

Streets could have been repaved in a timely manner. Heck, the city could have even afforded to replace sidewalks slabs for free.

Or, we could have lowered our tax rate.

But no, city officials kept awarding bigger and better salaries and benefits over the years.

It doesn’t matter now, though. It’s a foregone conclusion that the state will send in an emergency manager in the coming weeks, and you can bet there is going to be a major shake-up.

While we certainly don’t suggest that firefighters and police officers should be earning poverty wages, there needs to be a re-alignment.

Yes, that might mean our public safety officers will have to live a more modest lifestyle. It may even mean they will have to leave their suburban homes and move into town where their salaries will carry a bigger bang.

Imagine how much stronger that will make this community.

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