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Santa Rosa workers agree to more furloughs

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Santa Rosa City Council spent most of its energy Tuesday sparring over whether a pension deal with firefighters expected to save the city $59,000 next year went far enough.

But less noticed that same evening was that virtually the entire non-public safety city workforce agreed to concessions that dwarfed the savings served up by the firefighters or their police brethren two weeks earlier.

A coalition of about 850 non-public safety city workers — from maintenance workers to lawyers to sewer plant operators — agreed to another year of unpaid furloughs equal to 3.1 percent of their salaries.

It was the third year that non-public safety employees have accepted furloughs to help the city through its financial challenges.

The continued furloughs are expected to save the city $2.2 million next year, about $1.1 million of which will relieve pressure on the city’s general fund.

City Council members uniformly praised the eight labor groups not only for their continued willingness to take unpaid time off, but for the streamlined way in which they negotiated the concessions.

Mayor Ernesto Olivares said it was “refreshing” to see the groups working together. “We’re in this together and together we’re going to climb our way out of this thing, so thanks,” Olivares said.

Councilman Scott Bartley said it was “stunning” how different the negotiation process was this year compared to last year, when each of the individual labor groups in the coalition negotiated with the city separately and reached deals separately over several months that stretched beyond the budget cycle.

Councilwoman Susan Gorin said the approach the groups took this year “saved the city money, time and angst. You stepped up to the plate. We really appreciate that.”

The labor groups decided it would be better to coordinate their negotiations to show the public that city workers are doing their part to help the city through trying economic times.

Mike Reynolds, president of the Santa Rosa City Employees Association, said after years of news stories about bleak city finances, city workers hoped that their concessions could project a “positive message” that “the City of Santa Rosa is in good shape and well on the road to recovery from the extended downturn in the economy.”

In particular, Reynolds said the discussion about the city’s unfunded pension liability was being “blown way out of proportion.”

“The fact of the matter is the City of Santa Rosa is not in that bad of shape,” Reynolds said.

The city’s unfunded pension liability has soared in recent years to $112 million, but the notion that this puts the city in dire financial straits is a “misconception,” he said.

Reynolds said he is optimistic that an improved economy and continued belt tightening by the city should reduce that future burden.

Forty-one city employees who are not represented by labor groups also offered similar concessions. The executive management team, middle managers and so-called “confidential” employees who are not unionized because they are privy to city labor negotiations all agreed to either furloughs or a combination of furloughs and pension contributions equal to 3.1 percent of salary.

Those changes are expected to save the city $161,000 next year.

The total of expected savings from non-public safety concessions to date is $2.36 million, of which $1.19 million represents city general fund spending.

Getting all those concession nailed down before the budget hearings start is a big deal, said City Manager Kathy Millison.

“I can’t tell you how extremely valuable this is to our budget planning effort,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.





17 Responses to “Santa Rosa workers agree to more furloughs”

  1. Do the math says:

    @ John:

    “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.”

    You stated “I think all groups in the city have given back an equal share.” In other words you would be perfectly fine if your boss asked you to hand over some money out of you wallet so they can turn around & hand that money to your coworker?

    Just for the fun of it lets do some quick calculations to see just how equally everyone has been asked to give back. The lowest pay rate I could find in the salary plan was $19.11 / hour for a transit service rep at the highest step. They get furloughed for 64 hours, 64 x -$19.11= -$1223.04 In this example they stand to lose $1223.04 for the year.

    Then you have the standard firefighter whose pay range is $72,893-$87.511 per year. They will see an overall pay increase of 1% in July, dollar wise that would be $728.93-$875.11 MORE in their pocket than they are currently being paid.

    Hmmm….would I rather give someone $1223.04 out of my pocket or would I rather be given almost an extra thousand dollars to spend above what I already have in the bank? If that represents equality to you then I sure would suggest you go back to elementary school for a little brush up in mathematics!

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 4

  2. bear says:

    Look, the ship may be listing, but it is entirely the fault of REPUBLICAN deregulatory and tax cutting policies.

    12 years ago, we didn’t have these problems.

    Republicans want to create an economic crisis and then blame the “socialists” who rely on Social Security and Medicare.

    Oh, and eliminate birth control.

    Who is insane here?

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 21

  3. Lets be Rreasonable says:

    John, in another story you responded to my question about how you felt about Brown’s proposal to have public employees pay half the cost of defined benefit pensions, and you replied something about only if I thought CalPERS was imploding. This is not to save CalPERS, but to save the City and Taxpayers money. It would effectively split the investment risk between the City/Taxpayers and employees. This seems reasonable to me, but I gather that the public safety unions are opposing it in Sacramento.

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 13

  4. Grapevines says:

    Well public safety employees got a raise to pay for the additional % they had to contribute into their retirement funds and city workers got less and had to agree to additional “furloughs.”

    First of all, when did anyone in the private sector get a pay raise last and secondly, and most blatantly, it sure shows which union contributed more for the supervisor’s re-election doesn’t it?

    Thumb up 32 Thumb down 8

  5. County worker says:

    Ignorance abounds. 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. 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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  6. GAJ says:

    And:

    “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 33 Thumb down 9

  7. Vowel Movement says:

    Big John. The only lemmings in sight are those that cheerfully refuse to acknowledge that our current system of public safety pensions is unsustainable. I fear that it’s going to take us running out of money for everyone to pull their collective heads out of the sand. Meanwhile, you and your ilk will continue to bleed us all dry.

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 15

  8. GAJ says:

    It would be interesting to know how pay and bennies have grown for all categories since before the benefit “giveaway” of the early 2000′s.

    I did find this:

    “Sonoma County’s pension contributions, payments on pension obligation bonds and payments toward retiree health coverage rose from $21,404,307 in fiscal year 1999-2000 to an estimated $92,010,270 in fiscal year 2010-2011. That’s an increase of 330 percent in 11 years. Are there more county employees now? No, that number has declined by about 5 percent in the same period of time. Are there 330 percent more retirees? No, the number of retirees increased by about 66 percent.

    The average annual pension paid to recently retired Santa Rosa police officers, just based on their service with Santa Rosa, was almost $56,000 in 2009. For recently retired firefighters, it’s more than $67,000.

    What have Sonoma County supervisors done to control runaway pay and benefits in the last 10 years? They’ve raised their own pay-and-benefits package from about $95,000 apiece 10 years ago to about $250,000 apiece now. Ouch.”

    http://www.northbaybiz.com/Columnists/Open_Trench/Running_on_Empty.php

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  9. The Oracle says:

    Public Safety employees agree to stop future employees from spiking and other corrupt pension practices. Current Non-Public Safety employees are pressured to take additional non-paid furloughs. Gee, I wonder if the current so-called “Pro-Business” (At least if you’re Simons Properties a Big Box store) majority is influenced by the Public Safety employees labor associations. Any politicians who question these public safety bullies get a smear campaign against them during campaign season.

    Thumb up 34 Thumb down 6

  10. taxpayer says:

    Why are public safety people holier than thou?

    Thumb up 36 Thumb down 6

  11. John says:

    @ Joe and Bill Me:
    Really? Do you think “furloughs” are an option for PS? A week without the fire or police department? Sure, shall we name it “Free Crime and Fire Week”. Have you lost your minds? Have they not given that same percent back? The press has made it simply a “furlough” article. I think all groups in the city have given back an equal share. For god sake you lemmings who buy into this press…By the way, I have a bridge to sell. Interested?

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 33

  12. Alex says:

    Great…now lets get the welfare cases and politicians to take a furlough.

    Thumb up 36 Thumb down 7

  13. Money Grubber says:

    Perhaps some of you have seen the recent news that the City government of Los Angeles is facing almost certain bankruptcy unless they continue to lay off public employees?

    Its those public pensions that the bureaucrats deny are a problem.

    I might add, its not just Los Angeles, people. That city is simply the biggest fish in the pond of fiscal chaos brought upon us all by greedy local and state government.

    Thumb up 28 Thumb down 16

  14. RICHARD says:

    Let’s not forget the police did voluntarily cut their budget. Remember they eliminated funding for school crossing guards. True, those positions where not filled by police but it was part of their budget.

    Do you think the safety of our children going to and from school is properly a part of public safety. I do.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 25

  15. Joe says:

    Again the workers on the low end of the pay scale step up again, for the THIRD YEAR! When will P.S. match this or do better????? They do get paid much more and have better benefits then the misc. workers, so who can afford this more?

    Thumb up 50 Thumb down 5

  16. brown act jack says:

    We hire people to do a job and we assume that the 40 hours a week are what is required to do the job properly. If not ,why not just cut the jobs to 32 hours week and cut the pay for the job by 20%. That way we could cut the cost of labor and still get the job done that is need to be done.
    When you put them on furlough you are not saving any money, you are just using the money not spent on the other programs the CC wants to spend money on!

    When you limit expenses by furloughs ,you still have to pay the pension benefits as you have not cut the base salary.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 19

  17. Bill me says:

    Someday, public safety unions will be seen for what they are: self serving, shrewd, greedy, deceptive. Kudos to the City employees, but no thanks to police and fire who actually got raises.

    Thumb up 44 Thumb down 9

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