Kenneth Callahan’s decision to seek employment in the private sector rather than stay on as a $70,000-a-year consultant in Old Westbury is going to save the municipality money, Fred Carillo, the village mayor, was saying last week.
In fact, Carillo mentioned savings several times during an interview on Friday — sounding a sweet chord that would quicken the step of many a weary Long Island taxpayer.
The emphasis on savings signaled quite the turnaround from comments Carillo made to Newsday reporter Scott Eidler earlier in the week, when the mayor said he intended to rehire Callahan — who was ousted after an 18-year stretch as village administrator — as a consultant.
Why would the village want to oust, and then rehire Callahan, whose $218,000 last year made him one of the highest paid village administrators on Long Island? Especially after paying out more than $112,000 in unused sick, vacation and compensatory time when he was ousted?
To “help him out,” Carillo told Eidler — so that Callahan could reach 20 years in the New York State and Local Retirement System, which would have maximized Callahan’s pension benefits.
Carillo also told Eidler that the village could afford to bring Callahan back because “our financial condition has been great.”
All of which made the move sound like a grand deal.
But for whom?
Callahan, given his age, 59, and assuming 18 years in the system and a pension based on the three-year average of his highest salary — $218,000 — would be entitled to a $55,000 a year pension, according to a rough calculation by Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank in Albany.
Two more years, and yes, even as a $70,000 consultant, would have gotten him to 20 years, when that pension would have jumped to about $81,968 a year.
The difference, of almost $27,000 a year, “would have amounted to a whole lot of helping him out,” said Hoefer.
It would, in fact, have helped Callahan out with pension payments that, over 20 years, would have amounted to more than half a million dollars.
Those payments are guaranteed by New York taxpayers, who, under the state constitution, are on the hook for paying retirees should the state’s pension fund bottom out.
And that pension fund?
That’s taxpayer money too — collected by municipalities that pass it along to the state as contributions to the pension fund.
None of which is clear when elected officials — and Carillo is far from being alone here — talk about public money as if it is, as Hoefer put it, “a personal piggy bank.”
Callahan stepped down on Friday, Carillo said, to be replaced by Brian S. Ridgway, who will be paid $130,000 a year.
Ridgway’s $130,000 salary.
Plus Callahan’s $70,000 consulting salary.
Equaled $200,000 — which was less than Callahan’s $218,000 in.
But now we can subtract Callahan’s $70,000 consulting fee.
Which gives Carillo reason enough to pitch salary savings.