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UPDATED: Newspaper Report: City Administrator has $60K Benefits Package

A recent newspaper study showed City Administrator Mark Grams as having the most expensive benefits package among municipal employees in the state. Grams and city officials dispute the findings, however.

Updated 5:24 p.m. Monday

Port Washington city officials have provided accurate numbers for the 2011 municipal payroll information.

Updated 4:51 p.m. Friday

Though Port Washington city officials called a Gannett Wisconsin Media study of state municipal employee payroll inaccurate — saying the numbers used to represent the city were merely estimates — the newspaper told Patch on Friday the city did not present the data to the company as anything but fact.

According to the report, City Administrator Mark Grams — who has been with the city for nearly 27 years — has a benefits package with a $62,384 value, making his benefits the most expensive among municipal employees examined. 

Grams said the city gave the newspaper an average 62 percent of salary as the benefits' cost, but Gannett Investigative Reporter Eric Litke said officials never told Gannett that the information was simply an estimate.

Ald. Dan Becker said despite the newspapers' claim, he stands by his statement that the story is "bogus." Grams was out of the office on Friday afternoon.

Original story:

Port Washington City Administrator Mark Grams said a study of salary and benefits information for Wisconsin municipal employees that determined he has the most costly benefits package among those workers in the state is wrong because of inaccurate averages used to calculate the benefits' cost.

According to the study by Gannett Wisconsin Media, Grams — who has been the city's administrator for nearly 27 years — has a benefits package with a $62,384 value. The study looked at municipalities with a population higher than 10,000 and benefits including "health, dental, life worker's compensation and long-term disability insurance, as well as retirement, Social Security and Medicare" — though that doesn't mean all benefits packages included these coverages.

But Grams and other city officials said he does not recieve benefits that cost so much. 

"We have a bogus story here with bogus numbers," Ald. Dan Becker said. "And what I mean by that is … I want to say this was well over a year ago, where (the newspaper) inquired on the benefit packages on the city — which (the city is) willing to do, I mean, we have to do that with open records and everything else.

"However, to get them the data that they needed it was going to take quite a bit of work and it was going to be a cost. Well, they didn't want to pay the cost associated with doing the digging and coming up with exact figures for each employee benefit packages."

The Gannett study was based on information provided by municipalities through such open records requests sent in May 2012, according to the site. The newspaper did pay for records from some municipalities.

Port Washington provided the newspaper with an average fringe benefits cost of 62 percent of an employees' salary. Grams' salary is $100,619 — which could explain how the newspaper got its benefits figure — but city officials said the average didn't apply to everyone.

That percentage was more likely to apply to an employee whose annual salary is lower. For example someone who is paid $40,000 annually and also uses the city's family health plan would likely have had a benefits package costing roughly 60 percent of their salary in 2011.

As another example, City Engineer Rob Vanden Noven was shown to be receiving the second-highest costing benefits package in the city. The newspaper reported Vanden Noven's benefits to be $52,491 with a salary of $84,663, but Vanden Noven said his benefits now are actually closer to 31 percent of his salary — $26,245.

Becker also said that employees' benefits package costs went down "drastically" in 2012 because of changes after Act 10, including increases in an employee's own contribution to retirement and health benefits.

The newspaper took about six months to compile the database because of "technology" and "cooperation" barriers with some of the municipalities, the website said. Menomonee Falls, for instance, refused to provide employee names until the newspaper's attorney produced the state statute showing it was required.

Shawn Conrad February 01, 2013 at 05:40 AM
"Grams' salary is $100,619" What?
Tom Kamenick February 01, 2013 at 12:52 PM
1) The mistake is obvious and Gannett shouldn't have made it. 2) It should not take a lot of work to for the city's record custodian to figure out the cost of benefits for city employees. Either the city was padding the estimate given to Gannett for how much it would cost to find that information (something government entities do alarmingly often to avoid their duties under the law), or they need to keep their records in better order.
Scott Ziegler February 01, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Gannett Media is the same group of jokers that published the names and addresses of gun license holders in NY. Now those license holders are getting threats and break ins. Gannett is not known for letting actual facts and ethics get in the way of their opinion.

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