High public sector salaries and fake pointsettias in New Jersey

To save money, many New Jersey municipalities are cutting back on holiday decorations. The Star Ledger reports fake pointsettias have replaced real ones in Newark’s city hall. The outdoor Norwegian spruce will be powered by solar lights. Woodbridge has reduced holiday banners by one-third.

While it may seem miserly to cut down on festive decor at city halls, this doesn’t mean bare streetscapes. Bill Dressell, director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, notes in many cases local business districts and other groups decorate downtowns and main streets for the Christmas season.

What is truly depressing is the difficulty of reining in public sector salaries. According to the Asbury Park Press the median public sector salary for New Jersey’s 398,000 state and local employees (excluding police officers)  is $49,164. That’s less than the median salary for New York City’s (251,000 public employees) of $48,076. New York City has a population of 8.3 million, slightly less than the entire population of New Jersey. The highest paid public servant in New Jersey earns over $290,000 as head of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission.

If municipalities really want to save  money, take a cue from holiday cutbacks and reduce the public sector’s footprint on the local economy. It’s likely many currently public jobs can be provided by the private sector or non-profits. Lower property taxes will more than make up for missing tinsel.