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WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa faces $100 million pension shortage

Scott Bartley

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa’s pension task force kicked off its work Tuesday with a sobering revelation that the city’s pension obligation is underfunded by $100 million.

The figure, an estimate provided by interim Chief Financial Officer Bruce McConnell, underscores the scale of the financial challenge facing the city and the tall order before the task force as it grapples with ways to fix the system.

“We’re not going to solve the problem in six meetings,” chairman Scott Bartley said.

That’s how many times the task force is scheduled to meet before an April deadline to deliver a report aimed at helping the public and the City Council understand the problem and offer possible solutions to the soaring pension costs.

About 30 members of the public and at least eight city officials attended the meeting, which was moved at the last minute to a larger room to accommodate the crowd.

City Manager Kathy Millison outlined for the 11-member task force a brief history of the factors behind the state’s pension crisis and expressed her hope that the group will present policy makers with facts to inform their decisions.

“We want to air these views in as objective a fashion as we can,” Millison said.

But some critics continue to question whether the task force is properly carrying out its mission.

Councilman Gary Wysocky, who attended the meeting, questioned why a committee ostensibly formed for the purpose of educating the public is holding its meetings at 7:30 a.m. and not televising them.

At the City Council meeting later that evening, Wysocky raised his concerns. Bartley said the early time was chosen in part because many people on the task force have jobs to get to afterward, and Olivares said the strong turnout from the public showed the meetings were open and accessible.

Wysocky, who said he wanted to be on the task force but was not selected by Mayor Ernesto Olivares, said after the meeting that he worries rising pension costs might require the city to tap funds from the recently approved sales tax increase.

“I’m concerned that the structural deficit has not been addressed and that money will not be used for its stated purpose,” Wysocky said.

Voters passed Measure P in November to raise $6 million a year for eight years to fund city services, including police and fire protection, gang prevention, pedestrian safety, street paving and pothole repair and recreation and youth programs.

Bartley said the city could face a “backlash” from voters if Measure P funds are used for the retirement costs.

“I would hate to think we’re going to collect all that money and it’s not going to keep the parks green and all those things the voters wanted,” Bartley said.

Millison said the current challenges are rooted in decisions made in the late 1990s, when the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) was enjoying such strong returns on investments that many cities were “superfunded.”

This meant the assets in pension funds had swelled to such high levels that the cities didn’t have to contribute annually to CalPERS. Employee unions subsequently said they should “share in that wealth a little bit” and negotiated “improved and enhanced retirement programs,” Millison said.

The economy experienced strong growth through the mid-2000s, but it didn’t last.

“We all know now that things were not at all as rosy as they appeared to be,” she said.

The market crashed, retirement system investment pools shrunk and the city has faced exploding pension costs since, Millison said.

One key portion of the city’s retirement costs are expected to increase by $3 million next year, raising the total to $20 million.

Representatives of city employee unions, five of whom are on the task force, urged the task force to educate the public about the increases that workers have given up over the years to “buy” the increased retirement benefits.

Jack Thomas, president of the firefighters union, urged the task force to look further back than 1999 to get a clear picture of the history of pension obligations.

Paul Carroll, a representative of SEIU, lambasted The Press Democrat for publishing “hyperbole” about public pensions, citing an article from the Economist that he said was “irresponsible” for the paper to publish. The article was published in the editorial pages.

Carroll said he’s never represented a worker who received a pension of more than $100,000. Public pensions have “allowed people to stay in the communities where they’ve worked and continue to participate” and “kept them eating regular food,” Carroll said.

“It’s all about trying to ensure a quality of life in retirement,” he said

McConnell said the $100 million “underfunded” figure is the total amount of additional money the city will need, unless something changes, to fund the retirements of current and retired workers. The amount is substantial but is spread out over decades, he said.

And given that there are signs of improvement in the economy in general and the stock market in particular, there is reason to be hopeful some portion of that liability will “melt away” if investment returns improve.

But in the short term, the increasing costs to the city are a huge challenge.

“It’s not sustainable, so something has to change,” he said.

—–O—–

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32 Responses to “Santa Rosa faces $100 million pension shortage”

  1. Tom Lynch says:

    @ Thank Goodness

    Responding to your comment :
    \ the truth is the county retirement system has a 30 year average of 9.2 % return, just like it was designed. \

    You must be among \upper tier\ retired members of the Sonoma County Pension Board or a member poised to retire from the auditors office. Of course thank goodness you are able to retire with another generation paying for the massive unfunded benefits you are receiving, cause it ain’t from the budgetry chicanery you have inflicted upon the essential services this County used to provide.

    IF SCERA’s 30 year average was indeed 9.5% then why do we have a pension fund with over 1/3 of its assets from $618 Million of Pension Obligation Bonds ($500 Million + still owed), plus another $300 Million in Unfunded Accrued Actuarial Liability, and another $250 Million in unfunded retiree medical?

    Of course you don’t care the social consequences, nor the layoffs ahead, because you have gamed the system to your advantage with no heed to others that will pay your way…

    Next year Sonoma County will pay $47 Million alone on Pension Obligation Bond debt. We have by far the highest per capita Bond Debt and Long Term Debt Obligation of the 58 Counties in the State of California.

    And to Gary the Actuary…if CALPERS/SCERA used a 6% rate this whole house of cards that is on fire would collapse. Keep in mind the only reason they use the higher target rate is to prevent the Employees from matching the Employer contribution. Unfunded liabilities are solely the responsibility of the Employer, i.e. taxpayer.

    And with taxpayers maxed out and unable to pay higher taxes; the shortfall is covered by huge cuts in essential services to mental health, teachers, cops, roads…

    Danger of overfunding the pension fund? Please spare us the suggestion this is even possible…we are presently faced with over $1 Billion of unfunded obligations that Sonoma County will never be able pay…

    excuse me, I’m in a mood :)

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  2. Gary the Actuary says:

    Some comments about the appropriate funding interest rate to use (i.e., 9%, 4%, or something in between):

    When we comment about expected future returns, it is important to state the assumed asset mix of the portfolio. Let’s assume we are talking about one that is invested 60%-70% in equities with the remainder in fixed income securities.

    Nobody knows what actual returns will be for this fund, we can only make and educated guess.

    What we do know is that to achieve higher returns we must invest in riskier assets. With higher returns/risk comes (a) lower employer contributions over the long-term and (b) higher volatility in contributions over the short-term.

    We are currently experiencing the impact of that higher volatility in the form of having to make higher pension contributions to CalPERS.

    The ultimate cost of a pension plan is all of the benefit payments we have to pay in this and future years. The choice of interest rate we use to measure the unfunded liability does not change the ultimate cost of the plan, it only changes what we estimate the cost to be in today’s dollars (i.e., it only changes what we “perceive” the cost to be).

    If we use a low interest rate, then we perceive the cost of funding those future benefit payments to be high (i.e., we believe the unfunded is higher). This will cause us to sock more money away now in the form of contributions. The opposite is true if we assume a high interest rate (i.e., we perceive the unfunded is lower and we sock less money away now).

    Either way, the choice of interest rate doesn’t change the ultimate cost of a pension plan. If we sock more money away now, we contribute less later. If we contribute less now, we pay more later.

    According to CalPERS/SCERA, we have to contribute a minimum amount each year. The minimum annual contribution is calculated at 7.75% and would be lower than an annual contribution calculated using, say, 6%.

    I’m okay with the 7.75% rate for CalPERS/SCERA because it is only calculating what we HAVE to contribute…not what we CAN contribute.

    Santa Rosa (and Sonoma County) can always contribute more than is required (e.g., based on a lower interest rate).

    Let’s assume our funding policy contributions will be based on 6% while CalPERS/SCERA use a funding interest rate of 7.75%. This policy would mean we would put in more contributions than CalPERS/SCERA requires us to. It would increase the likelihood that assets would grow to be above the CalPERS/SCERA liability (i.e., it wouldn’t be under funded, it would be over funded). You might say this is like requiring the City/County to not take a “contribution holiday” even though CalPERS/SCERA says they could based on the 7.75% funding interest rate.

    I like this approach of using a lower interest rate because I could use the excess assets to stabilize my contribution rates from year to year.

    For example, suppose our funding policy is use an interest rate of 6% to fund the plan. Further, lets assume
    (a) at 6% interest the plan is considered 80% funded and the annual contribution rate is 15% of pay and
    (b) at 7.75% the plan is considered 100% funded and the contribution rate is 10% of pay per year.

    Our funding policy, then, would be to contribute 15% of pay (and not the 10% of pay CalPERS tells us is the minimum required).

    Now lets assume asset returns are 8% or more and at some point in the future the funded status/contribution rates become:
    (a) 100%/10% at 6%
    (b) 120%/5% at 7.75%
    At this point we could either lower our funding policy contribution rate or keep it at 15% until we reached a predetermined higher benchmark (e.g., 110% funded at 6%).

    Continuing with the prior example, let’s assume a bubble bursts and causes us to lose 20% of the assets. Before the burst our funded status/contribution rates (due to good asset returns) were:
    (a) 100%/10% at 6%
    (b) 120%/5% at 7.75%
    After the bubble burst our assets and contribution rates were:
    (a) 80%/15% at 6%
    (b) 100%/10% at 7.75%
    Now we’re back to our funding policy contributions being 15% of pay…or what they were when we started.

    Note: This was a hypothetical example. There are other scenarios where the results wouldn’t be so nice. To see a more detailed discussion, see:
    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=7&sqi=2&ved=0CDsQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.efi-actuaries.com%2Fassets%2Fpublications%2FUnderstanding%2520and%2520Managing%2520CALPERS%2520Contributions.ppt&rct=j&q=calpers%20asset%20smoothing&ei=4mpITfDYG8P7lweuxbDSBA&usg=AFQjCNGfSwyCnc7i80j7_3BYmvHjwXky8g&cad=rja
    (Note, this powerpoint was created for some other city/county.)

    This brings me to the question of whether now is a good time to begin this new funding policy. If initiated now, then contribution rates will be even higher than what CalPERS/SCERA is telling us we have to pay. This will require even higher taxes, more cuts in government services, or steeper reductions in negotiated benefits. Can we afford to do that at this time? I don’t think we could answer that question until somebody actually crunches the numbers and tells us what the impact would be.

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  3. Thank goodness says:

    No matter how many statistics you throw out and no matter how often you use words like reasonable or realistic, the truth is the county retirement system has a 30 year average of 9.2 % return, just like it was designed. Now you can start pulling out time segments to disect this statment.

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  4. Gary the Actuary says:

    Some thoughts about the $100 million unfunded liability (at 7.75%) for the City of Santa Rosa’s pension plans:

    The unfunded pension liability was reported as $41, $50, and $58 million for fiscal years ending 2006, 2007, and 2008, respectively.

    The assets were reported as $507, $555, and $599 million for the same years, respectively.

    The accrued liability was reported as $548, $605, and $657 million for the same years, respectively.

    These numbers are coming from the City’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report as of June 30, 2010. See page 54 of:
    http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/doclib/Documents/CityofSantaRosa_CAFR_09-10.pdf

    I would assume this $100 million underfunding number is as of fiscal year end 2009 (i.e., 6/30/09).

    Based on the numbers above, the unfunded increased $42 million, from $58 at 6/30/08 to $100 million as of 6/30/09.

    If CalPERS lost 20% of their assets in the year ending 6/30/09, then the asset loss for Santa Rosa could have been as much as $120 million ($599 x 20%). I would expect the unfunded ($100 million) grew by a lesser amount ($42 million) due to smoothing mechanisms.

    Deferring the losses using smoothing mechanisms is nothing new. Prior years gains and losses were also deferred.

    I would be interested to see a 10 yr history and 20 year projection of the employee/employer contribution rates as a percent of payroll with an explanation of the sources of change over the years. The history could likely be obtained from the annual reports published by CalPERS and given to the City. Seems like something that could posted on the City’s website.

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  5. Tom Lynch says:

    I agree with John, unfunded liability is the amount short of what is needed to fund the pension obligation for “past service” of active and retired employees.

    With respect to Sonoma County retirement the unfunded liability is the difference between what is in the pension portfolio (approx. $1.8 Billion) and the Actuarial Liability (approx. $2.1 Billion as of 12/31/2010)… or $300 Million. Mind you the AL is what is needed to fund retirement IF the portfolio gets an 8% return (the past ten year average is 4%)…If you used the lesser more realistic number you would have an AL of over $4 Billion.

    Keep in mind that over $600 Million of the Sonoma County pension portfolio is funded with Pension Obligation Bonds of which over $500 Million is still owed…these bond monies were borrowed to cover past unfunded liabilities. For each point the Sonoma County Employee Retirement Association (SCERA) misses its target rate of 8%, we incur an additional $19 Million in unfunded liability (this from SCERA’s very competent director Gary Bei).

    In essence if one were to subtract what’s owed on the bonds from the portfolio, the portfolio’s amount would be $1.3 Billion with an unfunded liability of about $800 Million on an Actuarial Liability of $2.1 Billion.

    The “Funded Ratio” for Sonoma County’s pension liability is actually about 62%, that’s with an 8% return…with the more realistic risk free rate of return of 4% the Funded Ratio would be about approximately 31%.

    The Actuarial Liability does not include the $250 Million unfunded liability for retiree medical.

    Add to the above the fact that we are adding 250 retirees per year while the County is reducing 250 workers per year; we are on a path that within the next few years we’ll have close to 3000 workers (from a high in 2004 of 4400 active workers)and over 4500 retirees.

    There are massive social consequences ahead as we see the layoffs of all our less senior cops, teachers, mental health workers; the decline of all our roads and infrastructure. The almost certain collapse of the retirement system with profound consequences for retirees themselves.

    I would respectfully suggest to all concerned; in order to make the system more sustainable, in order to preserve jobs and benefits; there need to be paycuts and pension reform.

    p.s. The City of Santa Rosa’s retirement contribution is half the percentage paid in by Sonoma County (no Social Security paid in, no retiree medical, much smaller Pension Obligation Bond debt)…kudos to Mayor Oliveras and Councilman Bartley for forming the pension task group!

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  6. Steve Klausner says:

    @NOTUTOO
    \Not all but most public employees do participate in social security\

    I’d like to know more about it. I know California teachers and their employers do not pay into Social Security.

    As I understand it the Constitution prohibits the Federal Government from imposing taxes on the states.

    It was President Johnson that moved SS funds out of the lock box and into the general fund to pay for his war in Vietnam. Americans will not pay a war tax, they prefer passing the debt on to their children.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. Tom Drumm says:

    The City of Santa Rosa participates in CalPERS. In the spirit of informed discussion, please take a moment to read CalPERS “Myth vs. Facts.”

    http://www.calpersresponds.com/all-myths-vs-facts.php

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  8. eye on the bal says:

    It is important to change public pensions through the institution of a second, lower level benefit tier. However, this will not result in near term savings. Second tier benefits will only apply to newly hired employees. Since local governments are shrinking, not hiring, this change will not have any significant impact until 5-10 years out. Keep your eye on the ball. We need immediate savings to reduce the cost of local government. The unions are thrilled that you are losing site of that reality and are focused instead on politically correct conversations about reduced pension benefits that will not impact any current employee, but create the appearance that employees are giving up something.

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  9. John says:

    Unfunded liability is defined as the amount of money that would be required IF all current employees in the system retired TODAY. That is never going to happen and returns will always fluctuate. When the markets recover in 5-10 years that number will go way down … AGAIN.

    Cities need to continue to pay an average during the good times and that will help keep the required amount down in bad times like now. However like typical polititians, in the good times they go on an irresponsible spending spree and look where that has got us. Is it the employee’s fault? No. Will the employees be penalized because of it? Yes. Responsible government? NO.

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  10. NOTUTOO says:

    @Steve Klausner…Not all but most public employees do participate in social security. Not all at Santa Rosa but I believe all of the county employees pay into the system.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  11. Steve Klausner says:

    Well thank goodness as a private employee my Social Security and Medicare is fully funded. To bad public employees couldn’t have participated, but that would be a Constitutional issue. So, we are in different leaking boats.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  12. Real reality says:

    The state is billions in the hole. Most cities and counties have issues and short falls due to lower property tax revenues. Still welfare is 50% of most budgets at the state level. If you ended all welfare in CA, people would just move away, like they moved in here when we reached number one in the country for welfare benefits.

    Or you can just go after the people who have a better deal than you. Do we fund it, yes. Is it our money, no, not after you give it to politicians. You can rant and rave but they will do what they want. How many times have people voted the same big spending prople into office over and over and over.

    It isn’t going to change. Sure, there will be a new retirement system for the new hires, that has been talked about for more thatn 5 years already.

    Plan on going after the current retirees or employees? Think twice. Orange county just lost their 3rd lawsuit in a row going after the Deputies for their current retirement system.

    Yes, there is shortfalls for now. Let the people who are actually getting involved work on it. Sniping from the sidelines is great sport, but you end up looking like a whinning, ignorant individual.

    Get up and get involved, or shut up and sit down.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 5

  13. Too Little Too Late says:

    @ Reality Check

    it’s worst than you think. Orange County pension short fall 03 was way bigger than anticipated $734 Million.

    With the State of California pension shortage it was thought to be at 19 billion dollars but now experts predict is more like 50 billion dollars.

    Ask yourselves honestly do you think a “Santa Rosa’s pension task force” is going to find the bottom if this mess?

    To really figure out the total shortage it will cost tax payers easy 1 million dollars to higher a auditing firm like KPMG. Oh man is it going to get ugly you have no idea! I saw the same thing play out in San Diego and it’s still not over; 1.4 billion pension short-fall and that does not include the county.

    City employees or “Union Rep’s” I’m not against you so please don’t thumbs me down. Just speaking the inevitable.

    Now if you don’t like the truth go ahead and thumbs me down.

    http://www.pensiontsunami.com/

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  14. Reality Check says:

    //. . . state the facts in the last paragraph “over several decades” and “as the enconomy grows the shortage shrinks”.//

    Your quotes appear nowhere in the article. The closest we get is “. . there is reason to be hopeful some portion of that liability will “melt away” if investment returns improve.”

    Notice the qualifier “if”? Understand, the pension shortfall is today’s number after assuming future returns of 7.75%. Yep, if they’re greater than that, the shortfall will shrink. Of course, the shortfall could also be much higher.

    No guarantees here. Just that taxpayers seem to be on the hook if it’s bad news. So maybe taxpayers want to protect themselves. Seems reasonable to me.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

  15. Grey Whitmore says:

    @ Joe Public

    Gotta agree with ya Joe.

    The Press Democrat, and other forms of news media, are no longer the bastions of information for a democratic society.

    The are selling headline sex! Maybe one of the days the press will begin to stand with Americas as an honest purveyor of information.

    As they used to say, just the facts.

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  16. Joe Public says:

    Nice job P.D.:

    Start with the BOLD “$100 Million Pension Shortage” then state the facts in the last paragraph “over several decades” and “as the enconomy grows the shortage shrinks”.

    Once again, fine reporting from our local paper.

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  17. Reality Check says:

    It is important for taxpayers to understand the extent of unfunded liabilities facing them.

    Equally important, they need to also understand that these obligations are in form of an adjustable rate mortgage. In the case of public pensions, the obligation rises and falls in inverse correlation to the return on investments.

    A gap estimated today at $100 million could be $50 million in a few years or $200 million. Once understood, I believe most taxpayers will see the virtue in demanding a system in which our obligations are known and fixed.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

  18. Lets be Reasonable says:

    This 100 million is not something that was kept secret – it was something that was not known until just recently. the City does not control what CalPERS decides to set its expected return on investment to be. CalPERS recently revised that figure down, and then sent its figures to the City. And frankly, with the market rebounding like it has, there will likely be new numbers out in a year or two that look much better. The City was not particularlly interested in giving better retirement plans to employees and said that employees would have to pay for it if they wanted it. Each bargaining unit did it differently, but for miscelaneous employees, we took a vote on whether we wanted to lose 10% of our salary and then pay an additional 1% (from 7% to 8%) of our salary towards it every paycheck. Personally, I voted against it, since I thought I could do better putting my money into a mutual fund. My brother used to laugh at me for working in the public sector. We do much the same job, and he was getting paid MUCH more than I was, but I liked my job, and the security that went with it. With his bonuses and 401k matching, he figured he would be able to retire in just a few more years. well, things changed, and now he is unemployed, and I’m glad I didn’t lose my retirement like he did in the stock market. But things are turning around. We’ve had over a year of private sector growth, and yet the public sector is still losing jobs – no more security. For the City to survive, we will need to start changing our retirement plans, and most of the unions have agreed to do just that. There are a few that still need to it, including Police and Fire, and it sounds like that will likely happen soon. I’m not sure where they are getting this $100 million figure, and it is very inflammatory. It makes more sense to look at it in terms of percent of salary that the City will need to pay. Because of the losses in the market and CalPERS adjusting their expectied return, those numbers are growing, and need to get addressed. I believe that it is projected that Police will cost 50% of salary in 5 or so years if things don’t get changed. Fire is a bit less, and Miscellaneous maybe half that. But as I said earlier, most units have already agreed to a change, and the rest will follow suit shortly. When I first started working for the City, the City did not have to pay a penny towards my retirement, while I put 7% of my salary towards it. It would have been nice if the City had put money aside back then during the \super funded\ period, instead of spending it on council pet projects…

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  19. Steve Humphrey says:

    As hard as one might try, it is hard for anyone in the private sector to find sympathy for those in the public pension system. Their union leaders have lead them down an unsustainable course…one requiring painful redirection to avoid a complete meltdown of promises made to them.
    I would urge this task force to look to increasing retirement age and a switchover to a 401K retirement system for all public employees. That would be a great start.

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 16

  20. Tom Drumm says:

    It is true that employee unions proposed to “share in the wealth a little bit.” At the time, I made that proposal myself at bargaining tables all over the County. The truth of the matter, though, is that Management’s unshakable position was that improvements would have to be paid for by employees, by re-directing wages or other benefits to that end. Although I was not working with members in the City of Santa Rosa at the time, I clearly recall from conversations with members and co-workers that this was the case in the City of Santa Rosa as well.

    One suggestion: it is inflammatory to lead with statements about hundreds of millions of dollars of unfunded liability; that is the amount of money the City would need in order to avoid ever making another payment toward current employees’ retirement. Even the statement that the City’s current $17 million paid toward retirements must be increased by $3 million would be clearer if represented as percents of payroll or of the City’s budget.

    A modest proposal: since the current problem is rooted in a false judgment of super-fundedness in the later 90′s (when the tech bubble blew, so did super-fundedness), link future judgments as to fundedness–super or under–to some objective criterion of the market’s valuation such as average price/earnings ratio.

    Where is the money the City saved during the 5 years long contributions holiday a decade ago…in reserves?

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  21. Mike says:

    I agree with Reality Check. How is the shortfall calculated? Is this another one of those 30 yr. projections that lumps the expenses into one number, but doesn’t look at income stream? The PD hasn’t done it’s homework.

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  22. Mike says:

    The City of Santa Rosa needs to begin to think in terms of adopting a 401k type retirement plan for employees and abandon the PERS system for new employees. Joining the rest of the workforce in California would not be a bad thing.

    Why do public employees deserve higher average salaries and pension plans unknown to most employees in the private sector?

    What most politicans and unions have forgotten is that the taxpayers make pulbic sector jobs possible. Local government measuring what other local governments pay is not a true evaluation of what employees should be paid or what their pension plans should look like in this economy.

    High tax rate are driving businesses and people who are paying taxes out of this area and this state. City revenues are also falling because of the economy and falling home prices and forclosures.

    The City of Santa Rosa needs to cut spending and cut pension benefits to remain competitive in this economic reality.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 15

  23. It pains me to report this, or to simply remind you of this… Because I adore the concept of a well executed public rail system in the North Bay, and I loathe the idea of avoidable decisions derailing the project in any way, shape or form… but the facts are the facts:

    The fella who succeeded as well as preceded current SR CFO Bruce McConnell is now at the helm of SMART. If there was any obligation to keep the public apprised of the expanding unfunded pension obligation amount, it’s these two gentlemen. Maybe they did, and maybe we were all not paying enough attention.

    -Jake

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  24. Concerned Taxpayer says:

    Gary Wysocky represents my viewpoint, and I’m sure that of many others: where is the public access, where can we provide input?

    Per the Press Democrat article, “My gut feeling is it’s just not something the public gets wound up about,” Bartley said.

    Wrong Bartley, I am very wound up about what I see as public unions extortion of public funds to plump their excessive pensions at the expense of taxpayers who are losing theirs.

    I want to see pension reductions, not ‘creative’ ways to fund excessive pensions that shold never have been agreed to.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 16

  25. Richard Ogg says:

    THis demonstrates why these projections should always include long-term trends rather than just current returns. Yeah, lots of things looked great in the late 1990s. But many knew that was not sustainable, at least historically.

    Governments often over-pay current compensation with the promise of rosy retirement. With the current shifting in the population demographics this will become an all-too-common problem.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

  26. Phil Maher says:

    “Backlash” would be an understatement. Even though Measure P was a general sales tax, voters approved it with a very specific set of purposes in mind. In fact, those uses were very clearly stated on the ballot itself. Let’s remain vigilant and hopeful that the task force’s mission of “educating the public” doesn’t morph into one of propagandizing the pressing need and imminent fiscal danger that calls for redirecting those existing funds from Measure P, or to again ask the public to step up with a constant stream of more taxes. As with most cities in Sonoma County, Santa Rosa’s house is not in order, and it’s become a blight on the community. Fix it, or run the risk that we’ll tear it down for you.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

  27. Get Real says:

    What is the difference between a recession and a depression?

    Try unemployment and no medical while wondering how we are going to retire at all.

    Enjoy your 70-90% retirement at our cost!

    “Representatives of city employee unions, five of whom are on the task force, urged the task force to educate the public about the increases that workers have given up over the years to “buy” the increased retirement benefits.”

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  28. Tom Lynch says:

    Congratulations to Mayor Olivares and Councilman Bartley for facing the issue of massive unfunded pension obligations with this task force.

    This is the issue of the day; we may be in the midst of the largest transferance of wealth from younger generations to older generations in history. Among the most egregious are these unfunded promises being paid by taxpayers and younger city and county workers.

    The private sector has a great deal of experience in how to deal with budget shortfalls and economic crisis. This task group can help steer the city in the right direction.

    Now if we can do Sonoma County to do likewise?

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  29. Why are we just now finding out about this? This should have been related to us long before the figure reached 100 Million dollars. This is outrageous. sounds like we have been trusting the wrong people far too long.

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  30. Dan Delgado says:

    Let’s hope Carroll tones down his schtick for the benefit of all. He needs to look beyond his personal interests if he wants to be taken seriously.

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  31. John says:

    Nice job G.W. (Gary Wysocky)

    As I recall you were requested to be on one of the the task forces and turned it down because ‘You didn’t have time’ yet you have time to show up and criticize. That’s a real good indicator of your spirit of cooperation and desire to do what’s best for the city. It’s all about you isn’t it?

    Less than 2 years left for you.

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  32. Reality Check says:

    How’s the $100 million shortfall calculated? Why throw numbers around without providing a basis for how the were reached.

    The odds are the city is projecting a very optimistic return on its pension investments. If so, the problem may well be worse than stated.

    At least the subject is being talked about. That’s better than before, but the public needs even more information to better understand the issue.

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