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Santa Rosa OKs firefighter pension deal

By JEREMY HAY

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

On a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, Santa Rosa’s City Council approved a labor agreement with its 121

PD FILE

firefighters requiring them to pay more toward their pensions and cutting benefits for future hires.

During a council meeting marked by nasty exchanges — a councilman refused at one point to apologize to another — the city’s actuarial consultant said the changes will save $788,000 next year. Savings are projected to reach about $1.7 million a year in a decade, he said.

The development is a highwater mark after several years of at-times bitter political argument and negotiation between the city and its various employee unions.

The four council members who voted to adopt the agreement said the city is indebted to the firefighters for amending their contract.

“Our firefighters have been under no obligation to meet with us but they did,” Mayor Ernesto Olivares said. He added, though, that firefighters should have been asked to make changes before now.

Firefighters said they have made a number of moves in recent years to help the city with its budget crises, including deferring pay raises.

“The firefighters took one more step tonight to assist the long-term health of our city,” said Fire Capt. Jack Thomas, president of Santa Rosa Firefighters IAFF Local 1401.

The impact for the city comes largely in cuts, which include $26.4 million a year toward retirement benefits for its 1,200 employees.

The deal does nothing to reduce the city’s unfunded $112 million pension liability — the amount that it owes its current and future retirees.

“What it does is it keeps it from growing quite as fast,” said John Bartel, the actuarial consultant.

Councilman Scott Bartley said: “It will help change the distant future and make it better for future generations.”

That wasn’t enough for Councilwoman Susan Gorin, who — with council members Gary Wysocky and Marsha Vas Dupre — opposed the agreement.

“We need to go further,” Gorin said, saying benefits for future hires should be cut more.

Wysocky, who clashed several times with colleagues at the dais, said the agreement put off a reckoning that needed to be made now through more extensive cuts. “To me, it’s as un-American as it gets because we’re passing it down to the next generation,” he said.

Employee relations manager Chris Sliz said that law and regulations prevent altering retirement plans of vested employees.

The savings achieved Tuesday will allow the city to chip away at its deficit or fund other programs. The immediate savings are equal to about 21 percent of the city’s $3.9 million general fund deficit.

“The amount the city is having to pay is crowding out” the city’s ability to pay “for other services,” said City Manager Kathy Millison.

The deal follows a path set by many cities. It establishes lower benefits for new workers and it raises the amount workers pay toward their pensions.

– Firefighters hired after July 1, 2012, must work to age 55 before being able to retire with up to 90 percent of their salary. Now, like most public safety workers, if they’ve worked for 30 years, firefighters can retire at 50 with that benefit.

– Future employees also will have to pay their full share of retirement premiums — equivalent to 9 percent of their salaries. Now, the city pays the entire employee share.

– The deal creates a less severe requirement for current firefighters. They will have to pay 5 percent of their salary toward pensions. Thomas said that he expects that current firefighters eventually will pay more.

– Firefighters received a deferred 3.5 percent raise in July 2011. This July, they are to receive another 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase, deferred from last year. That means after paying into their retirement, they will be getting a 1 percent raise.

– Also, pensions for new hires will be calculated differently. Instead of being based on the single highest annual salary — usually the final year of employment — their pensions will be based on the average of their final three years of service.

Known as “anti-spiking,” this prevents hikes in pensions than can occur through final year increases in pay, vacation payouts and other specialty pay.

The discussion grew heated at times. Councilman John Sawyer demanded that Wysocky apologize for saying his colleagues were, as Sawyer put it, “pooh-poohing” the unfunded liability. “I’m asking you for an apology or for you to explain your comment,” Sawyer said.

“I think you need to get a thicker skin,” Wysocky said.





50 Responses to “Santa Rosa OKs firefighter pension deal”

  1. John says:

    @ GAJ – coming from you that is Hilarious!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Reality Check says:

    @John, if you’ve got proof of that, I’m all hears. Once upon a time public employees accepted lower cash salaries in return for job security and better fringe benefits. Now salaries have caught up and the fringe benefit gap has become eye-popping.

    @Big Jim, Thanks for emphasizing what I intended, but was in a rush.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  3. GAJ says:

    @John; post facts that support your argument that things were different in the 90′s and post facts and links debunking my points about Public Safety increasingly devouring the budget to the detriment of your Union “brothers” and “sisters” not in Public Safety.

    Your “opinions” are not sufficient.

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  4. John says:

    @ RC – The opposite was true in the 90′s.

    @ GAJ – You links are opinion editorials. Strong work.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  5. Big Jim says:

    @Reality Check,

    The dash marks in your post make your number look like minuses. Important to note that they are inflation adjusted increases and compare with 7% average decreases in the private sector. In other words, relative to the private sector the increases over this 10 years is:

    Firefighters + 39.7%
    Police + 36.7%

    We now even pay the police to get dressed in the morning! Unfortunately, there is not the tax base to pay the excessive salary and benefits promised, and so the Misc. city employees are the lambs taken to the slaughter to feed the Public Safety beast, along with greedy management. Services will continue to be cut. Perhaps voters here will one day wake up, but probably not before our roads turn to gravel.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  6. GAJ says:

    Thanks Reality Check; those are some eye popping statistics, for sure!

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  7. Reality Check says:

    GAJ,

    I’m not sure the link below meets your definition of a definitive article on public employee pay and benefits. But it has useful information. Between 2000 and 2010, the average America family saw their–inflation adjusted–pay and benefit compensation decline 7%.

    Here are the numbers for firefighters and police. And remember these numbers are after accounting for inflation;

    Firefighters – 32.7%
    Police – 27.7%

    http://civfi.com/2011/10/14/public-safety-compensation-trends-2000-2010/

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  8. County worker says:

    You should check their WHOLE budget and see how much smaller the percentage is. They throw up a percentage of unallocated money and everyone is in an uproar. General fund is only a portion and they love to change the percentages. They created the CRISIS by changing their reporting and leaving out standing budget items so the percentage of wages and benefits more than quadruples. It may not be smoke and mirrors, but they will never let a crisis go to waste, even if they created it with their accountants. State pensions are still about 5% of the state budget, when properly reported. About 7% of county and the increases are mostly cuased by a different accounting method. But don’t let a crisis go to waste, screw as many people as you can while you can and late you just say, “oops, sorry”. But crushing public employees comes before the truth right? Grab your torches and pitchforks, they have you right where they want you.

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  9. Nepotism Unlimited says:

    Hey Wysocky,liabilities are bad to pass down to the next generations, but the limitless welfare state, expanding under the California and Obama libs is OK???

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  10. GAJ says:

    I cannot find a definitive article comparing actual pay and bennies for California cities and their increases since before the early pay and benefit giveaways of the early 2000′s…but perhaps one of you “Johns” can provide that.

    But we certainly have a problem that has yet to be addressed…and the contract described in this article is simply another version of “kicking the can down the road.”

    “The city’s pension costs have increased from $4 million in 2003 to $26.4 million last year. And that’s only going up.

    Of course, cities may unilaterally — and even retroactively — increase benefits, much as they did a decade ago, when in a breathtaking act of irresponsibility, city officials followed the lead of the state Legislature and many other government agencies over a cliff — giving employees what amounted to a 50 percent increase in their pensions for life. (Note: They were egged on at the time by labor unions and CalPERS who convinced legislators that pension portfolios were flush and any additional cost would be minuscule. They were wrong to the tune of billions.)”

    http://www.watchsonomacounty.com/2012/03/cities/gullixson-the-risk-of-pulling-the-cord-on-pensions/

    “Between 1995 and 2008, police and fire department spending, as a share of Santa Rosa’s general fund, grew from 43.9 percent to 55.1 percent, a 25 percent increase.

    It surpassed 60 percent last year (2010) and threatens to grow closer to fully two-thirds of the city’s general fund with recent decisions by the City Council majority to give more to public safety while taking from other areas.”

    http://www.watchsonomacounty.com/2011/05/inside-opinion/welcome-to-the-city-of-roses-police-and-fire-service-and-not-much-else/

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  11. RAW says:

    Are you kidding? Misrepresenting data brought the whole “Pension crisis”. Any fund manager who is not a complete idiot would NEVER consider a one or five year return as the basis for a fund to pay over 30 to 40 years. But is makes great headlines.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  12. John says:

    @GAJ,
    The “other John” is right. You are comparing BASE vs FINAL. Please do not attempt to use inappropriate data to produce the results you want.

    I can assure you that Oakland and FDNY “FINAL” compensations are well into the $110-130K range for the same firefighter position if $99K is the “base”. I, along with the other John are just trying to make sure you are using the right information. Please just agree that the data you pulled is comparing two completely different values.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  13. John says:

    @ GAJ – Another typical response. Every time I challenge your ‘Facts’ you change the subject. Can’t prove me wrong???

    Find a qoute of mine where you base your claim of my alleged view. All I have ever done is challenge your gross misrepresentation of information, your spin, your slander, your LIES!

    Oh, and your link … from 2008 data

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  14. GAJ says:

    If the general consensus among Public Safety is that no problem exists, as voiced here by John, then the price paid by future generations of public employees and taxpayers will be far worse than I have imagined.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  15. John says:

    @ GAJ – So according to ‘You’, Santa Rosa is the Highest Paid city in California. Not just the highest but $20k/employee higher. Are you Suuuure?

    Maybe you should look a little harder at what the numbers you are using represent. Like base salaries -vs- total income maybe? One includes overtime the other doesn’t? Just a thought but once again you are finding numbers YOU CHOOSE (oranges to apples) to make your arguement. (very decietful)

    I Guarantee you we don’t earn more than Oakland! Not even close!

    BTW, I’d be willing to bet Vallejo is no longer on your list. Find some up to date material.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  16. I'm just sayin' says:

    90% at 55 is way too much.
    90% at 65 is reasonable.
    90% at 70 is okay, too.

    You don’t have the physical ability to run into a burning building or chase a thief at 60?

    And that’s my problem…why?

    Our police and fire fighters should not expect cradle-to-grave funding of their entire life spans from the community in which they serve.

    Flip burgers…do something, anything, that makes yourself useful to the community to bridge the gap you faced when you took the job. The fact that you couldn’t rise to a Senior Level and earn the right to be in the job the rest of your career as a desk jockey is not my or other tax payers problem.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 13

  17. GAJ says:

    @John, it’s a simple thing to figure out if you simply go to the WSC home page and look at “What They Make”

    In 2010 there were 34 positions in Santa Rosa listed as “Firefighter.”

    The average pay for those 34 individuals was $101,776. If I include the 35th Firefighter listed, who made $14,548 in 2010, (so either a retiree or new hire who only worked a short time in 2010) that average is $99,283. 20 of those 35 made more than the $99,283 average.

    Oakland, the #1 most expensive city for fire on the link was at a Firefighter average of $80,700.

    33 of the 35 Santa Rosa City Firefighters made more than $80,700.

    If I include “Fire Engineers” the average goes up, so I left them out.

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  18. West County Watcher. says:

    srgem, I looked into it and yes OE3 forced the city to the PERB to settle the 2nd tier issue. What isn’t mentioned in the Coursey article is the fact the the other units took a raise in trade for the 2nd tier, basically selling out the new employees for money and throwing OE3 to the wolves, leaving them as the last misc group yet to agree to a 2nd tier, giving them no bargaining power with the city. When they balked at not getting the same treatment the other misc employees got they went to PERB and lost without a raise. Looks like you took care of yourself in that deal, to bad OE3 didn’t sign before the other groups, they could have had a payday too.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  19. John says:

    @ GAJ – You posted “…as we know, Santa Rosa is every bit as generous as the four California cities that made the list.”

    That doesn’t make ANY sense. Santa Rosa would BE IN THE LIST! Typical babble from you.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  20. GAJ says:

    What do other States do in terms of pay for Firefighters?

    Here’s the top 10 cities…40% of them are in California…though, as we know, Santa Rosa is every bit as generous as the four California cities that made the list.

    The list does not take into account California’s insane and, to my knowledge, unprecedented 3%/year vesting with the ability to retire at 90% pay in your 50′s.

    10. Denver-Aurora, CO
    9. Nassau-Suffolk, NY
    8. Tacoma, WA
    7. Vallejo, CA
    6. Seattle, WA
    5. Newark-Union, NJ-PA
    4. Miami, FL
    3. San Jose, CA
    2. Los Angeles, CA
    1. Oakland, CA

    http://firelink.monster.com/careers/articles/2088-top-10-highest-paying-cities-for-firefighters

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

  21. Someone sane says:

    So Fire and Police have to pay for their PERS. But are given a raise that almost covers that amount. Now what you probably won’t read about is that all the managers above them will get raises too if their salaries are are less than 5% above of the final newly adjusted salaries of the firefighters. I just don’t get it.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  22. West County Watcher. says:

    WOW, looks like I touched a nerve. To take a quote from your beloved counsel member “you need thicker skin!” I was simply pointing out the fact that comparing apples to oranges doesn’t work, they are going to be different. Every job is different and it’s pay and benefits are different.

    I wasn’t making light of teachers, they have a thankless job, especially the later grades. Kids just don’t seem to have any respect for anyone now a days. As far as working 1/2 of the year it just depends how you want to look at it. California in 2010 allowed districts to switch to a 175 day school calendar so I do know my facts. 365/175 is less than 1/2 so, looks like I know my math too…

    I leave with comparing to a volunteer department that runs maybe a 1000 calls a year, once again us apples to apples and oranges to oranges if you want to make comparisons. What do other California (not other states) do for public safety as far as staffing, pay and benefits.

    Just think thicker skin people, thicker skin…

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  23. Mike says:

    City of Santa Rosa has approximately 1100 employees that were hired to provide the services required to maintain a city. Police, fire, sewer and water, streets, building inspection, code enforcement, payroll, administration, housing, economic development, city attorneys, Human Resources, Public Works, Utilities, etc. These functions are very important in maintaining the quality of life for a community.
    Any sizable organization looks for and hires people who can handle these jobs properly, and encourages extended careers such as 20-30 years. This provides efficiency and consistency to the taxpayers. Fair salaries and benefits have been instrumental in attraction and retention of good employees. To date, there have been no cases of spiking with regards to City workers and retirement.
    The Misc. employees, which make up approximately 850 of the 1100 workers, have consistently paid their share of the pensions. 8% of salary deducted from every paycheck, as well as an agreed upon 8% reduction in salary to pay for the unfunded liability, for a total of 16%. Up until this year the city paid less than 12% of our salaries for retirements, but as of 2012 pays 16%. Once an employee retires the taxpayers no longer pay any monies. For every one dollar received in retirement pay -16 cents was paid by the employee, 16 cents paid by taxpayers and the remaining 68 cents comes from the investment earnings. Sure sounds like fair plan!
    Please do not be misled when the issue of “unfunded liability” is comes up. The term unfunded liability defines the amount of money that will have to be paid into a system over the career of an employee. If you were hired tomorrow, the City would not be fiscally able to put the complete amount of monies required to fund your retirement into the bank immediately. Therefore these costs are calculated and spread out over the life of your career. Ergo, there is always an unfunded liability.
    We have all just experienced one of the biggest financial crisis’ in the history of our country. There have been many in the past 300 years and this country has always survived! I remember the stories that my parents and grandparents told of living through the Great Depression and then World War II. They survived by accepting realty and knuckling down and pitching in collectively to get through those rough times. No whining or looking for scapegoats for their problems. At least, not those with strong character.
    This is one of those pivotal times! The City employees are trying to still provide the services necessary to maintain the quality of life in our community, and are willing to do with less to help. Most of the city workers live, shop, and pay their sales and property taxes in this town.
    The real question is: what kind of character are we all going to show? Are you a whiner or an active participant? In a city of 160,000 people, 1100 have sacrificed more than $9 million over the last three years for the betterment of all.
    Do the math and then tell me you are an active participant!

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

  24. Money Grubber says:

    I thought the school year across California was closer to 9 months, yet you say its only “half” the year which is six months.

    Someone has trouble with math. :)

    I might add that teachers cannot fake it while on the job. They stand before their class and work. They don’t stand around chatting with each other like most public employees do in office environments.

    Anyone peeked into the Santa Rosa “Dept of Community Development” lately ? lol. What a joke.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 11

  25. srgem says:

    Don’t even start with the teachers, working 40 hours a week for 1/2 of the year and if they work summer school or winter break they get more pay for it.

    rebuttal: teachers generally work more than 40 hours a week for 185 days. You must be including weekends in your 1/2 of the year statement. There are 260 Monday through Friday days. This does not include holidays.
    Reality, I’m sure the PD won’t drop this issue as it is a hot button topic nation wide. As far as affecting the elections we will see. As you may have seen on line already Coursey put a sham piece on 3 tier in the paper already. Not to bag on the Misc. group but, a furlough again, how’s that long term savings and beneficial to the city at least the PD & FD are paying towards their pensions and creating a long term savings.
    rebuttal: Please note that Misc employees have paid their 8% toward their PERS retirement for a long time. This is more than the percentage for Social Security. And they don’t benefit from the current Social Security cut because they don’t pay into Social Security.
    Lets not forget that the city had to take the Misc. group tot he PERB to get them to go to a 2 tier system, the true savings in their deal but, how much money was wasted to get that.
    rebuttal: Misc employees ratified the two-tier agreement. OE3 employees were forced to accept it.

    Make sure you have the facts. At least Chris Coursey did.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10

  26. GAJ says:

    @ West County Watcher.

    The fact that benefits of Santa Rosa Fire and FDNY can be discussed in the same breath is a joke. FDNY has no 90% Pension benefit and to retire with 75% there you have to go out on disability, (which many do).

    We should be comparing SRFD to Sebastopol…where the firefighters are 100% volunteer!

    The fact that people defend Public Safety’s picking the pockets of other employees is disturbing.

    “Reality Check” and “Let’s Reconsider This” are right on point.

    In 10 years I expect Public Safety to eat up 85% of the City Budget up from their current 60% to the detriment of all.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 11

  27. taxpayer says:

    What a joke.Wysocki & Gorin are the only sane ones.Sawyer,Olivares bought & paid for.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 18

  28. just a worker says:

    @ West county watcher “at least the PD & FD are paying towards their pensions and creating a long term savings.”

    just some facts
    misc contributes 16% to there pers. 8% employee fixed contribution. 8% employee salary CONCESSIONS.

    I have given up 96 hours no pay in 10-11
    68.5 hours in 11-12 and now will give up 64 hours in 12-13. so wheres the savings you ask?? im not sure why dont you ask the city what there doing with the money im giving back. Being furloughed means i dont get payed. I would much rather be at work than at home with no pay for those days. I also saw my health care premiums rise for my family. If your thinking that we are rolling in the money your wrong. There arent many 100k salaries floating around for us folks digging in the street.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 9

  29. John says:

    @WCW – Another great example of how someone does actual research. Nice post!

    @GAJ, what do you have to say about your post now? Do you know how to backstroke? As for the OT statement, what are you getting at? FFs in either state get OT and retirement is not based on that. So what about the OT? I’m sorry, but even if the FD went private, OT would still get paid if there was a vacation taken and someone had to fill it.

    @Follower – Banning Unions is not the solution. All the Unions are doing are protecting hours, wages, and working conditions. I have heard the argument that, “Unions had their time but now we have laws to protect workers”. If we relied simply on that we would have a society of ultra high class and low class minimum wage earners. A MAJOR portion of the middle class would be wiped out. If I am not mistaken most poor countries are based on this principle.

    If it wouldn’t cause such a problem I would love to see public safety home addresses posted so the public could see where they live. According to some posters here they live in mansions, drive Mercedes and take vacations to Europe every year. Not the case. You will find them in the average neighborhoods, driving average cars and taking average vacations. They do not stockpile money, because unlike private sector investments, when PERS recipients are dead the money stays in PERS.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 6

  30. Lets Reconsider This says:

    Bottom line, Santa Rosa still doesn’t have the money to fund these luxurious pensions. The money pit pension system Santa Rosa has just keeps getting deeper with no end in sight.

    The Council better reexamine the tarot cards or use a new psychic fortune-teller. Maybe one from Sebastopol next time? It’s a very mystical place.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 13

  31. John Lennon says:

    This reminds me of the management of Enron and Lehman bros who knew the whole thing was was unsustainable and going to implode, then proceeded to unmercifully steal from people before it happened.

    The only difference here is that its not behind closed doors and is being done legally.

    Scary.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 12

  32. John says:

    @ Kirsten – Bartel was not ineffectual. He was just prepared to keep Wysocky from asserting his SPIN. Bartel simply learned from two weeks ago that Wysocky is not interested in the COMPLETE FACTS. Wysocky is only interested in what HE thinks is fact. It was pretty obvious Wysocky didn’t get what he wanted and was bordering on throwing a tantrum. So bad in fact that the city manager interrupted to bring the discussion back to the item being presented.

    When you request the actuarial pro to come present (like Wysocky did) you would think you would show him some courtesy and listen to what he has to say. Instead Wysocky tried very hard to put words into Bartel’s mouth and Bartel simply wasn’t letting him do that.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 9

  33. John says:

    @ Karla – At least you picked up on the accusation by Wysocky and you have the guts to admit it. Wysocky is so chicken he wouldn’t. If he is going to assert something like that he needs to stick with it, unless that’s a violation of the council ‘rules of conduct’ in which case he should keep his mouth shut or leave the council. Maybe he backed off because it is simply not true and he can’t prove it.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 8

  34. John says:

    @ GAJ – You know exactly what I am saying. We work 56 hours a week straight time. We don’t get overtime for the 16 hours over 40 and we don’t get to take holidays off. Seems pretty clear to me.

    What you fail to recognize is that 16 of the 56 would be overtime ‘in the private sector’ which you like to compare us to.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 7

  35. Reality Check says:

    WCW,

    The point missing from defenders of the pension deal is that it doesn’t put the system on a sound financial footing. Yes, it saves “real money,” to quote Coursey, but not nearly enough to solve the problem.

    Coursey objects to public safety employees being treated different. But they are different. They are the core of local government. Take any public poll about which govt service people value the most, it’s police and firefighters.

    But that doesn’t mean they get a fringe benefit package that isn’t paid for and threatens the city’s solvency. Sorry. You deserve good pay and benefits, but not beyond what taxpayers can afford. And the blatant pension spiking that has become the norm reveals behavior that is simply unethical. There’s a sense of entitlement here that if not curtailed will erode the public esteem currently enjoyed by safety employees.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 6

  36. West County Watcher. says:

    Karla, did you watch the same council meeting. Gary was the rudest of them all, he’s a bully and thankfully Bartel wouldn’t let him put words into his mouth. Gary owes all the citizens an apology for the way he handles himself, unless of course you like crass and rude and think it’s endearing?

    Follower, Ban unions? really, that is your answer.

    GAJ, yes the can work OT but, that isn’t figured into Santa Rosa pensions, unlike the FDNY.

    Everyone in the city gets a vote, lets hope Ernie gets re-elected and Gary gets shown the door for is complete disrespect of the process and individuals. Do you really want a bully trying to run things for you? It wont be long before he turns on you and bully’s you next!

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 8

  37. West County Watcher. says:

    GAJ, really trying to bring up the FDNY. If you were to research a little you would see that the FDNY makes 100K after 5 years of service and can retire in 20 years with lifetime medical for them and their family. I’m sure the folks at Santa Rosa would love that deal. Not to mention the fact that FDNY works 14 hours a week less. So, better pension, higher pay, better OPEB’s and earlier retirement for them. Sure have Santa Rosa mirror FDNY and see how fast the city goes bankrupt! A recent NY Times article this year stated the average pension for FDNY is now 100K.
    Don’t even start with the teachers, working 40 hours a week for 1/2 of the year and if they work summer school or winter break they get more pay for it.

    Reality, I’m sure the PD won’t drop this issue as it is a hot button topic nation wide. As far as affecting the elections we will see. As you may have seen on line already Coursey put a sham piece on 3 tier in the paper already. Not to bag on the Misc. group but, a furlough again, how’s that long term savings and beneficial to the city at least the PD & FD are paying towards their pensions and creating a long term savings. Lets not forget that the city had to take the Misc. group tot he PERB to get them to go to a 2 tier system, the true savings in their deal but, how much money was wasted to get that. The PD and FD voluntarily went 2 tiered and they remain capped unlike any other city employees! Find another drum to beat people as this is getting old and nothing is getting done!

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 23

  38. Follower says:

    Hey John, I have a solution for you…

    BAN PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS.

    I know all you “progressives” get a good laugh every time I post it but it’s not just “A” solution, it’s the ONLY solution.

    NOBODY has come up with a better one. NOBODY! NOT EVEN CLOSE!

    People are going to have to face the ugly truth of the egregious conflict of interest ingrained in a system were the employers (our Politicians) are beholden to the employee (Public Employee Unions) for their very jobs.

    With all the crazy laws on the books it’s really amazing that this is even still LEGAL!

    Wouldn’t it be great if the person who decides if you get to refinance your mortgage KNEW that he would very likely lose his job if he didn’t keep you happy?

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 29

  39. GAJ says:

    John, are you saying Public Safety does not get overtime?

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 11

  40. Karla McKenzie says:

    I was very shocked at how rude the Mayor was during this discussion. It’s obvious that councilmember Wysocky touched a nerve when he mentioned the Mayor’s own pension spiking when he was on the police force. I am assuming that Mr Sawyer and Ernesto Olivares think that the endorsement and financial support of the police and fire unions are worth the shady deals they made with them to raise their benefits when the city is turning off streetlights and firing crossing guards. I think they will be unpleasantly surprised when they see that we who pay the cost for these high salaries are not voting for Sawyer or Olivares. Gorin and Wysocky are the only ones looking out for us tax payers and that’s who I am voting for.

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  41. Reality Check says:

    It will be interesting to see if the PD’s reporting on the seriousness of the city’s unfunded pension obligations makes a difference in council races this fall.

    Democracy works only as well as the public is willing to invest the time to stay informed and vote accordingly. As one sage put it: Democracy is not a spectator sport.

    Sadly, it’s become one. And the results speak for themselves.

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  42. John says:

    GAJ – “And new hires will still get a far better pay and benefit package than New York City Firefighters!”

    Are you suuuure? I advise you to go to the FDNY website (or the NYC website) and compare your numbers. A FF a FDNY after 5 years gets $99K and their pension isn’t a big difference.

    Your post is just another example of spouting out wrong information in order to get the public all worked up.

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  43. Bruce Anthony says:

    Well well well, I guess when the Mayor and John Sawyer made their sneaky backroom deal with the cops last year they thought we would forget about it by election time. No such luck. I won’t be voting for Mayor Olivares who is himself the recipient of a six figure spiked pension; or John Sawyer, who was enthusiastically endorsed by police and fire for 1st district supervisor. Any other tax payer who votes for these two deserves what they get.

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  44. Vowel Movement says:

    Mr. Mayor… can you spell “conflict of interest”?

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  45. John says:

    Again G. – 56 hours/week … no overtime, no holidays!

    Hey Gary – Maybe it’s time to stop grandstanding and start coming up with solutions instead of pooh-poohing those that are making the effort. Like Jake Ours said, we at least have to try.

    You work so obviously hard at spinning the presentation to fit your personal view that you are willing to completely throw out any rules of decorum. Bartel was being very patient with you but when you didn’t get answers that matched your personal beliefs you badgered him (along with the city staff)like some rookie attorney during a cross examination. At least Gorin and Dupre conducted themselves with the dignity and respect befitting the position.

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  46. Steve B says:

    Neat how everyone focuses on the 90% but forgots thats after 30 years of service. Most public safety people don’t get hired until late twenties or early thirites and don’t come close to 30 years. So to retire at age 50 with 30 years means one has to get hired at 20.

    I wonder how many people actually retire with 90%? Maybe the Press will come out with those numbers or are they so bleak it won’t serve their self interest needs of the business conservatives.

    At least Santa Rosa Firefighters are out there in the community doing good and not always in the paper for lawsuits like the City of Windsor or Cotati.

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  47. West County Watcher says:

    GAJ, if your going to compare Santa Rosa to New York City Firefighters then please try to get your facts right. Those that work for the FDNY get lifetime medical for themselves and family while employed and when retired. They work a 42 hour work week not a 56 hour one. They make 100K after 5 years of service in the department and can retire after 20 years of service. The average retirement for those in FDNY is now 100K plus all the fringe benefits as they list on their website. I’m sure SRFD folks would love to have a benefit and retirement package that is closer to those in the FDNY, not to mention working 2-3 days a month less for more money.

    You’re right most teachers don’t get overtime but, they also don’t work 40 hours a week every week, they average a lot less than that and if they decide to teach summer school or classes over breaks they get extra pay for that.

    Please get your facts straight before you try and talk about something. I found my info in less than 5 minutes on line and found your statements to be false and misleading.

    Thanks for your input and concern though, the system is expensive but, it isn’t better that FDNY.

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  48. Jim says:

    City has a $3.9M deficit and they they cut $788,000.

    Then, “in a decade”, they’ll save $1.7M but have a $112M unfunded pension liability.

    Is this good news? The morons on the city counsel resort to name calling over this joke?!?

    Again I must point out that saving 9% towards retirement doesn’t cover the guaranteed pension. Thus, this new “deal”, at stated in the article, doesn’t change the $112M unfunded pension liability. I’m curious, at what point do people think this is a problem? $250 million unfunded? $500 million? $1 billion unfunded? You’d think at some point the people will say something. Though with the Federal deficit pushing $15 TRILLION, maybe not. None of these bills will ever be paid. Heck, give the firemen a raise! Oh wait, THEY DID!!!

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  49. Kirstin says:

    After the approval of the police agreement last month, this 4-3 vote was pretty predictable.

    Again, the majority is willing to settle for a pension deal that doesn’t begin to address the unfunded liability. These council members are just kicking the hard decisions down the road. Nothing new there.

    Mr. Bartel, who is always careful with his words, began sounding rather ineffectual though when he wanted to limit his defintions so much that he couldn’t really admit what is obvious: the current system/procedure is not adequate to extract us from continuing to pile on more unfunded liabilities, let alone significantly pay down those we have already amassed.

    The repeated staff argument that if S.R. reduces its benefits below the “norm” it will train entry level people who will then leave after a few years for greener pastures needs to be re-thought. S.R. is not the only municipality with pension problems; most are in the same boat. But there is a herd mentality in government (as elsewhere) which induces a spiral to higher salaries/benefits. However, this can be turned around if some courageous cities hold the line and in fact reduce their employee packages which are too often on the high side (to put it mildly). Those trail blazers can show the way for other cities, and instead of an upward spiral, a downward one that will bring salaries in better, affordable perspective, could be set in motion. S.R. wants to be at the forefront in many areas: why not this one?

    As for the idea of getting the CA legislature to pass laws that would allow cities and counties to cap pensions and to in other ways provide instruments for getting these costs under control, yes, S.R. and other cities should press such proposals. We need the laws to reflect reality, not a pie-in-the-sky view of labor issues.

    Voters here should remember this council’s action to kick the can down the road when they elect new members in November. We need council members who will grapple more firmly and effectivly with this vital issue of pensions.

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  50. GAJ says:

    And new hires will still get a far better pay and benefit package than New York City Firefighters!

    Retiring at 90% of pay, no matter how you calculate it, is completely and utterly insane!

    If teachers don’t have overtime it’s high time to eliminate it for Public Safety.

    Wysocky, Dupre and Gorin at least seem to understand we have a huge problem that is well beyond the “band aid” stage.

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