Middletown Police Chief Robert Oches is getting $249,338 for unused sick and vacation time accumulated over his 40 year career upon his retirement at the end of this month. The payout is at Oches current pay scale, despite the fact that the time accumulated over a 40 year period.
The Township Committee approved the payment, reluctantly because it is required by State Law, at Monday night’s meeting.
Committeeman Tony Fiore said that most Oches’ unused time was accumulated prior to 1996 when the Township Committee passed a 150 day cap on retirement awards.
“The average American at age 55 has $155,000 in their 401K accounts, according to Fidelity Investments,” Fiore said,”Here we are forced to pay almost $100,000 more than what most Americans save over their lifetimes, in a lump sum as unused sick and vacation pay. This payout amounts to about 1/2% of the average Middletown property tax bill.”
“This isn’t anything that reflects on the chief and his 40 years of service; the money is owed and the law requires us to vote,” Mayor Stephanie Murray said. “It’s wrong because it’s accruing at present rates for time banked before many of us were born. It’s an unsustainable, broken system.”
In addition to the payout, Oches will receive a six figure annual pension for the rest of his life.
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande said it is disgraceful that taxpayers in Middletown are on the hook for nearly $250,000 for their retiring police chief in unused sick and vacation time. Casagrande, R-Monmouth, said it is well past time for the Legislature to make the elimination of unused sick pay for retiring public employees a top priority.
“This enormous payout is outrageous and an example of why homeowners’ taxes are so high and why the system needs to be changed,” says Casagrande. “For four years, the Democrat-controlled Legislature has refused to consider legislation eliminating this perk. Taxpayers bear the burden of over $800 million in accrued payouts. Unless the Legislature acts now, that liability will only increase for our children and grandchildren.
“The chief’s service to the community is appreciated, but a $249,000 payout puts too high of a financial burden on the town,” commented Casagrande. “This outdated benefit makes New Jersey unaffordable and part of the reason for the outward migration from our state.”
Casagrande is the primary sponsor of A-158 that prohibits payouts for unused sick time. That bill languishes in an Assembly committee awaiting action. Casagrande introduced the identical bill in 2012 (A-2495) which also never received consideration.
“It is time for the Legislature to fulfill its promise to the taxpayer and do something to bring down property taxes. Moving this bill would be a significant step forward in that direction,” stated Casagrande.
In 2010 Governor Chris Christie vetoed legislation that would have capped such payouts at $15,000, saying they should be zero. Legislative leaders countered with a $7.500 payout, but the legislation did not advance when Christie indicated that he would veto that as well.