I rarely write to newspapers because normally my views never appear to be what the editors want to print. Nevertheless, I did want to express my opinion as a state employee on some misconceptions I see in the community.
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First, we are not all highly paid. Despite the surveys that have been posted in past years by the Anchorage Daily News and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, my average salary has never approached the $40,000-plus that those publications indicate. Averaged by the commissioners, governor and sundry others, then maybe the average is that. But starting as an administrative clerk II (a Range 8), my take-home after taxes and retirement was $1,850 per month.
Of course, I was also a single father, raising two children at the time, so I luckily qualified for day-care assistance and low-income housing. That was when I lived in Fairbanks, where expenses are slightly less than Juneau, and there was a 4 percent pay differential.
Second, all state employees don't have excellent retirement benefits. Sorry to burst a bubble, but my retirement fund, provided I continue with the state recommended portfolio, would equal exactly $1,204 per month to retire on if I stayed with the state until age 60. I could potentially contribute more, however, I still have two children to raise, and even being married to another state worker, housing and day-to-day expenses cut into that. I am not talking about snow machines, boats, vacations, etc. I am speaking of small things, such as housing, clothes, food, basic used vehicles (sorry to disappoint again, but my wife and I have very used 1995 and 1993 vehicles). Our rent for a duplex, in the Mendenhall Valley takes one of our full checks at the end of the month.
So before anyone reading this begins to rant about the "overpaid, underworked, lazy, etc." state employees, think of all the services you have received, currently receive or will receive from the state and consider why they are free or low cost. The cost is being borne by the lower paid state employees who do not receive an honest wage for a day's work. We may love what we do and feel a sense of duty to our fellow Alaskans, but that is not going to compensate us forever.