Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

Why Long Island's $1M payouts might not change

Old Westbury Chief Daniel E. Duggan retired last

Old Westbury Chief Daniel E. Duggan retired last year with a salary and severance package totaling more than $1 million, according to village records. Pictured right is an Old Westbury police car on Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Credit: NYACP / Howard Schnapp

A million bucks?!

Most of us probably had an intensely visceral reaction when we read about the Old Westbury police chief who retired with a salary and severance package that topped $1 million. Every number in the case was egregious -- from the nearly 500 unused vacation and sick days he cashed out to the $285,000 salary to fight crime in a community that seems almost immune to it.

Not that Daniel E. Duggan did anything wrong. He served capably for 40 years, benefited from rules in place governing pensions, and accepted what the village contractually owed him. Still, we grit our teeth and shake our heads every time one of these payouts becomes public, which happens with frustrating frequency on Long Island.

Police are a special case, benefiting as they have from an endless cycle of arbitration awards that guarantee cops in one jurisdiction do at least as well as those in neighboring jurisdictions. But it's not just police, and it's not just pensions. It's everything.

Duggan's haul comes at a time when many residents feel like they are running in place financially, that life is stagnating. It's little comfort to them that changes in the pension system will make these taxpayer-financed payouts a little less golden in the future; they want an overhaul now. They strain under a groaning tax burden that includes paying for a web of boutique taxing districts top-heavy with expensive administration. Ironically, they also see public sector jobs overall disappearing; for many, that was the path to a middle-class life.

And yet, Long Island's conundrum is that many residents in many communities like their services, police or otherwise. Absent a strong and pervasive outcry for change, we'll continue to pay for that.