July 3, 2007

RE: DCYF's Problems

Marc Comtois

Pat Crowley--who throws ad hominem attacks around like a Fenway Park Vendor throws peanuts (though they're more accurate)--has peeked in to drop a couple bombs concerning my DCYF post. However, he did attempt a more substantive critique at Kmareka (a post which Justin already mentioned). Crowley thinks that my calculations don't take into account compounding of salaries--"each year the raises are on the raises from the prior year"--and that they "are skewed because they count certain things twice....Vacation, for example. If I get to take a week off, I get paid right? But I don’t get paid twice. AR...count[s] my regular salary AND my vacation pay… they count it twice, in other words."

To start with, there was no intention to shape the stats to fit my argument, as he implied. I kept hearing how the overall budget has increased so much since 1998, that I got the State Budge docs from as far back as I could (2001) and proceeded from there. My "technique" was simple: crunch some numbers in a straightforward way and post the results. The 29% increase in salary per position since 2001 was derived from the difference of the average DCYF salary then ($47,500) until now ($61,300). But the increase in the total amount devoted to salary from year to year is only part of it: the other part is the reduction in the number of positions and how, taken together, there has actually been an overall increase of salary per position.

I think most people would ask: has my salary increased 29% ($13,800) since 2001? But let me amend that: these increases are for positions, not people. A better question would be: has my salary increased 29% ($13,800) since 2001 even though I've never been promoted?

OK, you asked for it: more fun with tables. As they say, there are lies, damn lies and statistics, right? Well, here is a year-to-year breakdown that may assuage Crowley's compounded concerns.

DCYF - Year to Year Salary Increases
Year# FTE's% Change # FTE'sTotal Salary ($Mil)% Change Ttl. Sal.Avg. FTE Salary% ChangeInflation Rate

As the table shows, calculating things in a slightly different way reveals that changes in total salary for the entire DCYF aren't exactly the same as changes in the average salary per FTE position. If anyone wants to suggest alternate methods, feel free.

Crowley's example re:vacation might be applicable when calculating total payroll (salary and benefits). I used the budget numbers by the state to calculate total payroll per Full Time Equivalent position. Genuine question: Is he saying the State--including the Budget office and the Legislature--has been using faulty math for at least the past decade in calculating those numbers?

ADDENDUM: In the comments, "Bobby O" believes I'm excluding important comparative data. I've added Inflation rate to the above table. Bobby also believes that I'm not taking into the number of caseloads. Well, according to RI Kids Count:

Between 2000 and 2005, in Rhode Island, the total Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) caseload remained relatively constant at around 8,000 cases. In 2006, the number of children on the DCYF caseload increased to 9,414, a 19% increase from 2005.
That's the most up-to-date I can find. Bobby ties the high caseloads to the need for the State to make an attractive compensation package to lure workers. My first thought was, "where are all of the altruistic RIC grads?", but the question really goes back to the argument made before: slightly less compensation = a few more workers = lighter caseloads = better service.

Hey Bobby, here's a thought. If you want to cut jobs in one place to add more workers at DCYF, why not turn your eyes to the Legislature? (Hey, I can play this game all day).

Legislature Increases - 2001 ->2008
20012008Change (Value)% Change
Total FTE's260298.2+38.2+11%
Total Salaries$12,223,039$18,952,525+$6,729,486 +55%
Total Salary/FTE$47,012$63,556+$16,544+35%
Total Salary+Benefits$18,952,525$29,396,150+$10,443,625+55%
Total S+B / FTE$64,463$98,579+$34,116+53%

The numbers speak for themselves.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Dear Marc,

Again, you forgot something:

Where's the inflation chart??

For instance, during my sales presentation on travel, we talk about a $100 night hotel for 7 days once a year for twenty years. Based on simple math, the total comes to $14,000.

However, when you account for compounded inflation, 8.5% per year according to the Wall Street Journal, the actual number is double that.

When the first Holiday INN opened in Memphis back the early 50's, the first rate was $4 per night. That same room today is $235/night.

Without the inflation chart, or even a median income expansion chart, percentages are just floating in space with nothing to relate to.

You also have not provided an "outcomes" chart. If you reduce staff but increase "customers", in order to draw folks out of the workforce to work for you, you must increase some part of compensation.

Until these benchmarks are provided, your research is well thought out and intetresting, but alas, incomplete.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at July 3, 2007 1:15 PM


Any data available showing how many of our fine union employees at DCYF have been disciplined or outright fired because of their gross negligence involving these horrific abuse cases? That's a conversation we all need to have about DCYF. The silence is deafening isn't it?

Posted by: Tim at July 3, 2007 2:28 PM


I don't know where you got 8.5% (you might be thinking of interest?), but the normal rate of inflation is about 3% per year. Using the BLS numbers up to 2006 (NE Urban) from 2001 2006 the salaries should have increased a total of 22.69%, or 5.47% less than they did. If you extrapolate out assuming 3% per year (which will probably end up a little high, but I'll use it for the sake of convenience) at the end of 2008 the salaries should be $58,741.31 or $2,558.70 less than they are and 28.78% more than the 2001 salary. This assumes, of course, they they weren't under or over paid in 2001.

Overall, I don't think this is something to get too worked up over. It would be nice if the GA were rational and restrained the growth of all salaries to the rate of inflation, but as long as they are able to underpay some years they can afford to overpay in others. In fact, with the exception of 2002, they have actually done a really good job in the aggregate. It has been inconsistent, but in line with inflation overall.

I think the biggest problem is that you are just looking at salaries. You should be looking at all compensation, salaries, benefits, and, yes, vacation time to see the true change in compensation cost. As it is, I think the salary change is okay as long as everything else remained the same (that is, decreased along with the rate of inflation).

Posted by: Mario at July 3, 2007 3:01 PM

Dear Mario,

Hotel inflation outpaces regular inflation by an over 2 to 1 ratio. Regular inflation should come in at 3 to 3.25%.

Now, for a real shocker, let's look at the health care inflation rate. Employees don't control the cost of their own benefit.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at July 3, 2007 4:53 PM

Just wondering, Bobby, whether you have any proof that this is relevant:

If you reduce staff but increase "customers", in order to draw folks out of the workforce to work for you, you must increase some part of compensation.

An administrator doesn't just increase salaries on general theory. Is there any evidence that DCYF has been having difficulty recruiting? I ask mainly because that type of analysis has seemed largely absent from the discussion from your side of the aisle; it's always just more money regardless of the facts... or the outcomes.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 3, 2007 6:01 PM

One more thing, Bobby:

Without the inflation chart, or even a median income expansion chart, percentages are just floating in space with nothing to relate to.

That's not true. The reader has his or her own experience as a reference. It works out well for your side to enclose the numbers for unionized public employees as a workforce unto themselves (not the least because there are FTEs paid to come up with talking points), but private-sector workers don't need mitigating context in order to compare the employees whom they finance to their own deals.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 3, 2007 6:08 PM

Dear Justin,

I can only approach that one anecdotally. My sister is a court advocate for DSS in Massachusetts.

Needless to say, since she works in a bordering community, there are times where one family is served by both states.

Obviously, folks in the industry talk. Everyone seems to know everyone's caseload number. For a while, you didn't want to go to Massachusetts because the Director there was ignoring the guidance on this issue as set forth by the contract.

It would seem that Rhode Island is headed in that same direction now. However, I am aware that this is not "data" that we can work with so I'll see if I can find some.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at July 3, 2007 6:24 PM

Dear Justin,

On your second point:

A single reference is no place to make a judgment.

For instance, in 2004 I left a charitable organization, where I made $27,000 a year (I was atoning for past sins) to a corporate pr firm where I made over $70,000 a year.

What does that tell us?? Nothing is what it tells us.

If a personal skill set has changed or an industry is lagging, it will throw off personal perspective. We must compare things to the whole.

Imagine if the entire General Assembly operated this way. You want them making decisions on personal rather than state directed perspective??

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at July 3, 2007 6:35 PM

Well, thank you, Bobby, for so well summarizing the liberal/progressive's view of people, as if only you are honest enough to make an assessment of your own circumstances and "atonements." Our readers — and taxpayers more generally — are sufficiently adult to compare their own employment packages with those that they finance, taking full account of and adjustment for difficulties and windfalls.

At any rate, in what way are you comparing public union employees "to the whole"? I state again that you are insisting on comparing them to themselves, without reference to the hardships that those ludicrously generous packages force on working-class families in Rhode Island.

Truly, I am happy for you that you make so much money. For my part, I've observed as this state has spit on my family and slapped me down at every opportunity. I suppose we can differ as to whether that experience is sufficient for me to "make a judgment," but it's ultimately a question of how far out on the ice the state government can skate before a critical majority of Rhode Islanders share my sense.

As for the other point on the table, I should clarify before you do too much research: It is not enough to argue that the state has an insufficient workforce. What I'm asking for is proof that the state, when it announces an opening for a particular position, is having difficulty finding takers.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 3, 2007 7:19 PM

always funny how the libs disappear when you start reporting factual data..

Posted by: johnpaycheck at July 4, 2007 8:05 AM

Just more bad math ! Thanks for calling attention to it Marc.

Posted by: Pat at July 4, 2007 7:53 PM


To answer your question (albeit with a question) -- why is it that people will, for example, be a substitute teacher for years in RI, while pulling every political string they can to get a public sector job (and you can substitute police, fire, etc. for "teacher"), while companies trying to recruit private sector talent to move to RI struggle (and often move to Massachusetts)?

There is every indication that there is an overabundance of supply relative to demand for public sector jobs in RI (gee, could an above market value comp package have anything to do with it?). And there is equally abundant evidence that the opposite is true in the private sector (gee, could having to pay private school tuition on top of high taxes have anything to do with it?).

Justin, RI is broken and this year's session of the General Assembly proved that it will take a deep and painful fiscal crisis to fix it (aided, one hopes, by a raft of federal indictments). Why waste your time arguing with knuckleheads like Bobby and Pat? Spend your time more productively by planning your move to another state. There is no hope left for RI. Better to leave and watch the train wreck from afar.

Posted by: John at July 4, 2007 8:04 PM

"I think the biggest problem is that you are just looking at salaries. You should be looking at all compensation, salaries, benefits, and, yes, vacation time to see the true change in compensation cost."

John beat me to the punch.

You are correct, Mario. Public sector salaries are somewhat above average. But it's the fabulous bennies that make state jobs disproportionately desireable.

By the way, if we began offering social benefits that were simply average, not maximum, wouldn't that open up some FTE's in the budget that could then be tranferred to DCYF, where they are obviously needed?

Posted by: SusanD at July 5, 2007 7:52 AM

Guys like "Bobby O", just like most liberal, are defenseless in the face of facts.

What do you guys think of the Ultra Hypocritical Clinton's and their comments on the Libby issue.


It's amazing this mentioned in the main stream media!

Posted by: John at July 5, 2007 8:40 AM


If you start from the 2001 salary Marc uses ($47,600) and compound it using the inflation rates in the table, you come to a total of $57,135 by 2008.

Dividing the $49.7 million that was actually spent in 2008 by $57,135, you get a total of 869.9 FTEs. (And that uses the assumption that you’ve implicitly built into your argument that no one ever retires and is replaced by a less experienced/ lower salary employee. That’s a dubious assumption to be making over a 7-year span.)

That means, with the current budget, you could have 59.9 more positions than you have now, if there had been "only" a 20% salary increase over 7 years.

So where is Marc’s original argument wrong?

I guess the question is this: would these employees--or their unions--be willing to sacrifice a portion of their "traditional" salary and benefit increases so that more people could be hired to help with the caseloads? Maybe tying state salary increases to cost-of-living increases or inflation would help.
And, by the way, given your past track record on math-related issues, for example, posting the video on your website that tries to convince people that property-tax cap should be based on "rate" and not "levy" (but not mentioning that this would allow governments to circumvent the tax cap by jacking up people’s assessments), or arguing that there’s a magic education funding formula that can both raise total spending by hundreds of millions of dollars and give people a net tax-decrease, you’ll have to excuse us for not considering you the final arbiter of numbers-related matters.

Posted by: Andrew at July 5, 2007 9:48 AM

Dear John,

People waste their time arguing with "knuckleheads" like me because I know how to win elections, maybe not on my own behalf but I've certainly captained a few efforts, therefore it's usually folks who have ideas like mine that are in play.

Because you, and the Tom W's of the world, are so extreme, we never have to worry about your ideas being in play.


I don't have a huge problem with state worker contracts being tied in part to either CPI or straight inflation provided there is also a tie to other things going on in the industry.


Take the cost of every FTE in state government, that's total cost, divide by the number of people. This isn't your problem.

Wanna really see me get in trouble with my friends on the Left? The true evil in Rhode Island that screws with taxpayers all the time is Special Education. This is the system we need to scrap and start all over again with. Until we do, nothing changes.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at July 5, 2007 10:10 AM

"What do you guys think of the Ultra Hypocritical Clinton's and their comments on the Libby issue."

I think it's one of the dumber things that the wife of America's sleaziest pardoner ever said. I hope she keeps saying it.

"Hillary's brother, Hugh Rodham, collected $400,000 from two big-time criminals who got pardons. When the news of the payments broke, the Clintons claimed surprise and demanded Rodham give the money back. ...

Her husband [Marc Rich], who had fled the country rather than fight charges of massive tax fraud and trading with Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis, suddenly received a pardon. ...

Another Clinton pardon that drew a grand jury probe involved four Hasidic men from suburban New York. They had cheated the government out of tens of millions in anti-poverty programs and received prison sentences of up to 6-1/2 years. They, too, got a get-out-of-jail card ... the community voted for Clinton over Republican Rick Lazio by 1,400-to-12 ..."


Posted by: SusanD at July 5, 2007 11:15 AM

Dear Bob:

You win elections because of the political patronage that is continually doled out by your party.

Posted by: John at July 5, 2007 11:36 AM

Dear John,

People waste their time arguing with "knuckleheads" like me because I know how to win elections,
Posted by Bobby Oliveira at July 5, 2007 10:10 AM
The only Democrat governor you elected in the last quarter century was a multi-millionaire who ended the worker's comp boondoggle, eliminated GPA for the healthy but lazy and permanently froze AFDC benefits.

Posted by: mike at July 5, 2007 7:18 PM

Dear John,

Funny, I've never accused Red State Assemblies of working that way. Then again, over the past 6 years we've taken a bunch of those back.


It's the only race we can't win regularly.

Of course, none of you wish to pay attention to this, based on the number of times I have to point it out, but take a look, a good look, at how many seats at many levels your side has lost under Carcieri. Almond didn't lose seats like this. I figure the new vetoes just handed us another two seats in the House.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at July 5, 2007 10:18 PM

You have also failed to mention the $4,000 stipend each caseworker got during the last contract so the caseload limit could be violated without grievance. OK so they got a 4K raise each but is it worth having their caseloads go from 14 to 30???
I assume the stipend was considered raising salary.

Posted by: Schooly D. at July 9, 2007 1:45 PM
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