State and local governments make payroll with public money, which is why this news organization launched its annual I-Team Payroll Project this month to provide the public with details on how government employees are compensated.
The Payroll Project includes a searchable online database of 388,643 salaries — and counting — from employees in state government, as well as area counties, school districts, cities, townships, villages and other local entities such as libraries.
The Payroll Project is assembled using Ohio public records law. This week, March 11-17, is National Sunshine Week, a time to raise awareness of the importance of transparency in government and access to public records.
Dennis Hetzel, president of the Ohio News Media Association, said there’s good reason public employees’ payroll and personnel records should be accessible.
“These are taxpayer dollars and there’s no accountability if you don’t know how the money is being spent,” he said.
The database currently has the salaries of public employees who earned at least $50,000 — Ohio’s median household income is $50,674, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It includes state employees and numerous government in our region for the years 2014 through 2016. We are gathering 2017 payroll data and updating the database as information is received.
The Payroll Project does more than provide links to individual salaries. It helps identify trends and makes government accountable for its decisions. Here are some of the findings from the Payroll Project in recent years:
- The city of Kettering hired new firefighters last year to bring down the amount of overtime put on firefighters revealed on the Payroll Project.
- State lawmakers voted to give local elected officials 5 percent annual pay raises while giving state employees 2.5 percent annual pay raises.
- Departing Dayton city administrators boost their pay when they leave with a payout from the city’s controversial “executive savings plan.”
- Ohio taxpayers are on the hook for more than $444 million owed to state employees for unused vacation and sick leave payouts, a benefit available to few in the private sector.
- Three years after the Greater Dayton RTA’s union chief told the I-Team that the days of bus drivers pulling in six figures with overtime was “long gone,” the agency paid five drivers more than $100,000.
- Local school superintendents generally earn less than the national average in base salary, but many receive contract perks that far exceed their peers in other parts of the country.
- Central State University improved its finances in part by trimming its administrative staff and cutting payroll. Wright State University meanwhile is facing a budget crisis after years of over-spending.
- Male state of Ohio employees are paid, on average, nearly 6 percent more than female state employees.