The sole purpose of sick days should be sickness and the inability to work because of that sickness. Instead, public employees and their employers treat them as additional time off with pay, additional vacation if you will. Actually, it is treated as additional compensation because all or most of it is paid in cash upon termination of employment or retirement. In NJ before 2000 all that cash was added to the pension calculation thus adding to costs. Many state and local governments still do. No private employer would do that or could afford to.
Everyone should have sick days to use when needed, but not to abuse … especially at taxpayer expense. Sick days can be accumulated if unused, but they should never be paid in cash or non sickness related time off.
Pay for unused absences was capped at $15,000 in 2010, but public employees hired before that at school districts, towns, and counties across the state can still rack up six-figure payouts
Public workers in a majority of New Jersey’s municipalities, school districts, and all but two of its counties are due almost $1.9 billion in pay for unused absences when they retire, with at least one employee slated to receive as much as $500,000.
To put things in perspective: If this obligation were spread throughout the state, every New Jerseyan would have to chip in $207 to cover the public-employee version of Wall Street’s golden parachute – according to an NJ Spotlight analysis of local budgets.
Or think of it this way: In this state with the highest property taxes in the nation, the $929 million owed to municipal workers alone, if it were paid out immediately by property-tax payers, would lead to an increase of 11 percent over last year’s total local levy.
Part of the problem can be traced to the way benefits are typically negotiated by local officials, be it with a union or with individuals. According to Jon Moran, senior legislative analyst with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, it can be difficult for elected officials to take a hard line when facing the realities of what neighboring towns give and a town’s own precedent.