Public Sector Pension Problems

August 14, 2013

The Town of Clarkstown — located in Rockland County in New York’s lower Hudson Valley — today is a suburban town comprising 47 square miles with a population of 84,000.

Clarkstown is predominantly white and middle class. According to the 2010 Census, just 4.5% of the people who live in Clarkstown are at or below the poverty level. The median household income is $102,000 and the median home value is $500,000. About 80% of the homes in Clarkstown are owner-occupied, and the majority were built after 1950 as Rockland County transitioned from a predominantly agrarian economy to a bedroom community for the New York metro region.

In 2010, CNNMoney.com named Clarkstown the 41st best “small city” to live in America, which was the highest such ranking in New York State.

One would think that in a stable suburban town like Clarkstown, public safety would be of paramount importance to residents, yet the job of policing would be less stressful than in nearby high-density, inner-city areas where danger lurks around every corner.

New York City — one of the most complicated places in America in terms of ensuring public safety — has a police force of 34,000 supervised by the New York City police commissioner who earns annual salary of $215,000.

For some reason, Clarkstown has a history of providing the highest compensation to police officials in the lower Hudson region. In Clarkstown, an entry-level police officer makes a base salary of $62,000.

In nearby and contiguous towns, entry-level police officers earn between $40,000 and 43,500 per a year in base pay.

In 2010, it was reported that then-Clarkstown Police Chief Peter Noonan was the highest paid municipal employee in New York State — earning just over $301,000.

At the time, he was supervising a force of 173 police officers, of which 147 made more than $100,000 in base salaries, not including overtime and other earnings.

Noonan retired in 2011 after spending 33 years in the Clarkstown police department, the last seven as Chief.

When he retired, his annual pension was calculated to be $193,892 based on the formula New York State uses to calculate pension benefits.

A recent recalculation by the NYS Comptroller’s Office has added nearly $13,000 to Noonan’s retirement benefit, bringing it to $206,398, the highest pension for a retired cop in New York State.

Noonan now has the eighth highest pension among municipal retirees in New York State and is one of 10 pensioners with an annual benefit exceeding $200,000.

You think Detroit has problems?

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