in Houston, Texas
Austin taxpayers could get dinged if city shifts from contractors to salaried employees
Monday, Apr 16, 2012, 10:51AM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Imagine, as the Austin Social Engineering Council does altogether too much of, how the quality of life in Das Kapital city would improve if taxpayers paid more for services performed by a new legion of city employees.

If you can’t imagine, and you’ll find you are in the company of many sane people who live outside the city limits, an Austin American-Statesman story is here to help.

A short time ago, city staff recommended the council extend the contract of a private cleaning service employed by Austin Energy at an estimated cost of $2.9 million for the next five years.

But why do that, the council reasoned, when you could create 10 new city janitor jobs and do the same work for $4.1 million over the same period?

Never mind. You should have been here for the extra $650 million they spent putting in the commuter rail system the vast majority of the public doesn’t use. And if you don’t flee to a suburb you’ll be here for the ban on plastic bags next March passed in spite of cleanup estimates inflated incorrectly by 366 percent.

At any rate, the council found its unanimity on the janitorial hiring spree so exhilarating it is asking city staff to calculate how much taxpayers could be dinged by replacing all outside service contracts with city employees.

What are tens of millions of dollars extracted annually from taxpayers in comparison to the general well being of a new generation of public workers buffered from life’s hardships by generous city retirement and health plans?

Sort of like they had in Rhode Island before the state nearly went bankrupt, or in Stockton, Calif., which doesn’t look to be so lucky.

But that would never happen in Austin, where solar energy is thought to be free and continues to run when the sun goes down solely on the power of the council’s biggest ideas.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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