WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors back pension cuts


Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday unanimously endorsed proposed changes aimed at curtailing the county’s mushrooming pension costs.

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. (PD File)

They include controls on spiking, cuts to salaries for current employees and reducing pension formulas for new employees.

“I think we are taking a good bite of the apple in this first step,” Supervisor Efren Carrillo said.

The changes could save the county government about $13.4 million annually in salary and benefits costs and, in 10 years, $11.7 million in annual pension costs.

But none of the proposals will take effect unless unionized employees agree.

Ken Churchill, a Santa Rosa winemaker who has criticized pension system oversight, expressed dismay at Supervisor David Rabbitt’s assertion that the proposals are as far as supervisors can legally go at this time.

After the vote, Churchill said the proposed annual cost savings are not “nearly enough” to address the county’s pension problem. He contended the board would have to find $55 million in annual savings just to hold level in future years.

Also, labor groups representing county employees must agree to the changes before they can be enacted.

Ed Clites, president of the 500-member Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association, suggested to supervisors that they are not operating in good faith with his members.

Clites said after the hearing that the board’s proposals amount to a “take it or leave it” proposition. However, his members will not oppose the board’s plan to create a second pension tier for new public safety hires, he said.

Currently, public safety workers can retire at age 50 with 3 percent of their pay for every year worked — effectively 90 percent of their highest year’s compensation based on a 30-year career.

The county is proposing to change the formula for new public safety workers to 3 percent at age 55, which Clites called the “industry standard.”

The corresponding benefit for general county workers allows retirement at age 60 with 3 percent of their highest year’s pay for every year worked.

The county proposes to change that formula to 2 percent at age 61.25.

Clites said public safety employees will oppose the board’s demand that they take a 3 percent cut in total compensation, the equivalent of a 5 percent reduction in salary if benefits and other compensation are untouched.

“We’re going to ask for a pay raise because we don’t think we’re being paid enough compared to other counties,” Clites said.

The proposed reductions in salaries and benefits would save the county about $3.2 million annually.

Several supervisors said they were leading the way with a proposal to cut their compensation by 6.9 percent. If their salaries alone were targeted, they would drop 11.4 percent.

Department heads would lose 4 percent of overall compensation while 3.5 percent would be taken away from administrative managers.

“We are going as far as we legally can go,” Rabbitt said. “If we take a bigger leap, we might end up in a manhole or abyss where we can’t go.”

Carrillo said he hoped for a compromise in negotiations with employees.

The county is negotiating with its largest union, the Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, representing about half of the county’s 3,500 employees.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek .moore@pressdemocrat.com.

42 Responses to “Sonoma County Board of Supervisors back pension cuts”

  1. Union Guy says:

    GAJ, I stand corrected. I had a lot of figures running around in my head. I also own two businesses and one is highly regulated at the fed level and drives me nuts. Correct, I do not put 15% into SS from my county job.

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  2. ArthurAndrew says:

    It blows me away that nobody wants to talk about why all this became a problem and when. Less than a decade ago nobody could care less about public pensions, jobs, or their benefits. Mostly because we had good jobs around here HP, Optical Coating, and others who all had retirement benefits. Those Government jobs were for somebody else. Every single post here is submerged in a diversion problem and embraced in their own solution. A problem that’s solution is to divide and distract while the cause continues to be ignored. We can all continue to allow ourselves to stay distracted and continue to talk about deficits, unfunded liabilities and generous benefit packages or we can change the conversation. These problems exist because we’ve allowed them to become the problem that we talk about while the real problem continues to decimate our local municipalities ability to serve the public. Historically low interest rates and unregulated financial schemes continue to rob us of tax revenues and steal our services, but nobody seems to want to talk about that. Fraudulent triple A rated mortgage backed securities that were invested in by pension fund managers are largely responsible for the short falls in pension funds. Not lack of employer/employee contributions which are continually adjusted to compensate for subtle inconsistencies. This money 100′s of millions which is now conveniently called “unfunded liabilities” didn’t just simply come to be. This money was stolen from all of us when suddenly local Governments had to dip into their general funds to cover the losses from so called risk free investments to honor their obligations. So in other words if there wasn’t any investment losses these pension funds would have remained solvent like they had for decades. So why aren’t pension funds guarded from risky investments? Well they are. In fact they can only invest in triple A rated securities and interest only money market account types. So when you fraudulently rate securities as triple A and you lower interest rates down to nothing you kill pension funds and that’s what happened, but as you can see nobody wants to talk about that even though that’s the problem.

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  3. GAJ says:

    @David Stubblebine.

    The average pay of government employees has grown so swiftly in the last 20 years, (unlike the national average household income), that your argument that they sacrificed mightily in the past on the pay front to gain reduced pension contribution rates rings hollow.

    The whole system has been gamed by short sighted Politicians, Supervisors and Managers who could care less what unsustainable packages they put together as long as they got to unwrap their very own “spiked” Pension when retirement comes their way.

    “Shortly before he retired in early 2011, Sonoma County Supervisor Mike Kerns had been making an annual salary of $134,097.

    But the county pension that he now receives is based on a much higher figure, his final earnings of $174,857.”


    Who, other than the taxpayer, suffers in a situation where the average package has gotten so large that we can afford less and less government employees?

    Why the lowest half of public employees of course; think SEIU members.

    They are the ones asked to tighten their belts and even when they comply, they are the first to be sacrificed when the inevitable layoffs are made to keep the system afloat for the upper 50%.

    You don’t have a pension that vests at 3%/year by any chance do you?

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  4. GAJ says:

    Union Guy, how can you claim to pay 15% into SS when the normal rate is 6.2%?

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  5. Snarky says:

    Here’s an interesting video going viral right now on the web.

    Found it on CNN.com

    Michigan police execute man by shooting him 46 times in 5 seconds.

    Thats what I call police training!
    Thats what I call the “right stuff!”

    Guess maybe those public safety pensions do attract the…. uh…..killers?


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  6. David Stubblebine says:

    Lately, every discussion of public pensions includes expressions of outrage because some public employees are having their pension contributions paid for by their employers; like they were somehow getting their retirement for “free.” Despite many responses explaining the complete fallacy of this notion, the comments and the outrage persist.

    The trend to have employers pay employee’s retirement contributions in lieu of raises began in the 1980’s and was IN ALL CASES proposed by the employers; it was particularly advocated by the League of California Cities. The first time I ever heard the expression “It’s a Win-Win” was at the bargaining table when the City proposed this very idea. When an employer offers a raise in the form of paying a portion of the employee’s pension contribution, the employees get the extra money in their checks but the City’s total pension obligation does not go up (because the base salary has not changed) and the employee’s income tax rate does not go up (for the same reason). The result is that the employees get increased take-home money but it costs the City less to do it. It’s a Win-Win.

    The employers proposed it, the employees saw it for the Win-Win that it was and they accepted it. It was fiscally responsible for both sides when it was adopted and it remains more responsible that the “make ‘em pay” vitriol showing up in these comments. Those who want to see fiscal responsibility from their elected officials should INSIST that this practice continue.

    Further, the slide into employer paid member contributions always involved trading away raises to get it. Any suggestion to reverse this practice is absolutely a suggestion to take back previous raises; it is not just a suggestion for the employees to pay their fair share. Through the raises they deserved at the time but never got, they are paying their fair share and always have been.

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  7. Union Guy says:

    I am not anti-SS. Heck, We pay into it and can’t benifit. When we take SS later, our county retiremnet is rediced by that amount, no gain. So I pay 12% to my pension, 15% to SS and wont see it. For those of you on SS, you are welcome, county employees subsidize it for no return, or at least no gain. Sucks, but that is like. I just posed in another article about the QUALIFIED people waiting to take our jobs for less. Ignorance must be a great place, so many are living there.

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  8. Snarky says:

    Lets Be Reasonable:

    I say that every single NEW hire into local and state government be placed into social security and 401K style savings plans (and closing down the public pension system).

    Care to explain your anti-social security retirement viewpoints for NEW hires in government?

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  9. GAJ says:

    If you’re not participating in Social Security as a government employee then, at the very least, you should be contributing 6.2% of pay into your pension…possibly double that as the 6.2% we pay into Social Security doesn’t really net all that much when you can access it, (62 for partial in my case and 66 for full benefits).

    In addition to the 6.2% of my pay over the years for SS I also put 15% of my pay in a 401k…so 21.2% was my contribution to retirement…my employer paid 6.2% for their portion of SS and 4% for maximum matching on my 401k.

    When I hear whining from government employees that they are putting 12% of their check into a guaranteed retirement it makes me laugh. Of course, only a small percentage put even that much in with some contributing nothing.

    At the very least employees should be paying 50% of the total cost of their retirement which is taxpayer guaranteed and accessible well before anybody can get near their Social Security.

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  10. Sonoma Citizen says:

    Supervisor Carillo: this $11.7 million reduction in pension costs, spread over ten years, is a good bite of the apple.

    In plain English Mr Carillo is saying $11.7/10=$1.17 million a year, compared to an annual pension cost of $100 millionaire year, or a1.2% annual reduction, is a good bite of the apple.

    That reality distortion by a Supervisor is business as usual. What’s interesting that the PD continues, with a straight face, to report these helium filled balloons as if they were something other than hot gas, floated heavenward. By a County leadership who have converted the Fourth Estate from watch dogs to lap dogs.

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  11. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Snarky – why should I get a pension? First off, because I work for Santa Rosa, we don’t participate in SS. Second, because a pension was part of the compensation offered by the City when I applied for the job. I competed with hundreds of other applicants and was considered the most qualified. Maybe because of my graduate education. Maybe because I could have made a higher salary in the private sector, and the pension along with a sense of doing good made it seem worthwhile at the time. My family thought me foolish at the time for settling for a public job when there was so many better opportunities in the private sector. I voted against the additional pension, since it meant a loss of 10% of our salary. I thought I could do better with the money I was putting into my 401k. When it passed, I stopped putting the money into the 401k to keep my take home pay the same. And then the crash came. Better to be lucky than good, I guess. I’m sorry things seem not to have worked out for you, but I didn’t cause it, and your being bitter won’t make things better.

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  12. Sonoma Citizen says:

    Supervisor Carillo: “this is a good bite of the apple”.

    What apple would that be?

    Would that be the $1.2. Million a year reduction in current annual pension costs of $100 million a year?

    The Supervisors continue to believe that facts don’t matter. What matters is what the PD is willing to print . As long as the editors and reporters of the PD continue their policy of treating the Supervisors as providers of holy writ instead of as purveyors of double talk, the County of Sonoma will continue its descent, unimpeded, into its hard earned status as worst governed county in California.

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  13. Snarky says:

    Lets Be Reasonable:

    You are correct that social security was (originally) designed to be the safety net for elder Americans.

    That has nothing to do with anything.

    WHY should you, a public employee, get your own public employee pension that is greater than what the rest of the private sector gets in their social security?

    Answer: public employees can contribute to social security and contribute to their own savings just as the rest of us currently do.

    Seriously. LOL.

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  14. bear says:

    When Romney/Ryan cut SS and Medicare, you’ll be left wondering what the hell happened.

    Meanwhile, pay attention to the loss of Richard Essex, who died for you and what else?

    How about some cuts to the $854 BILLION per year in “defense” spending. Where is the credible threat?

    People are dying for the idiot right wing. Either join the military, bring them home, or STFU.

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  15. GAJ says:

    @LBR; your take on SS is the same as mine…and in my retirement plans I excluded it on the chance it would evaporate.

    But 75% of highest years’ pay to maintain standard of living in retirement?

    Hmmmm…the wife and I seem to be doing just fine with about 35% (well well under six figures)…but at 55 we have yet to even access our IRA monies as you must wait till 59 1/2 to avoid penalties.

    Living frugally allows you to do just fine with far less than 75%.

    2%/yr vesting with the ability to retire with 60% of your income after 30 years at age 60 is a very very generous retirement.

    Anything beyond that is what got us in this mess in the first place.

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  16. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Snarky – Do you seriously believe that social security is good enough to retire on!? SS is meant to be a bottom level safety net, so retirees do not starve and/or go homeless. Most experts believe you need about 75% of your income in retirement to maintain the same living standard as when you worked. It is a sad fact that many workers do not, or are unable to save for retirement, and are forced to retire on SS alone. These individuals make up a good percentage of those living in poverty. Most public employees have at least a college education, and probably more than half have advanced degrees. Do you seriously believe that these folks should retire in poverty?

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  17. We NEED Press Democrat to visit food stamps, economic assistance, welfare, or in home support services. PLEASE let public know how overwhelmed line staff gruntworkers really slinging out work.

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  18. Accountable says:

    Supervisor David Rabbitt asserted that the proposals are as far as supervisors can legally go at this time. We the people have the right, through the Referendum Process, to control the compensation of the Board of Supervisors. A proposed 6.9% total reduction in Supervisor compensation is a slap in the face. There needs to be a 20% total reduction, which would rank us below Contra Costa (which has 2 times our population and higher cost of living).

    Here are the Supervisor 2010 Total Cost of Employment for Bay Area counties: Alameda-$239,977; Sonoma-$227,884; Santa Clara-$225,437; Contra Costa-$189,662; Marin-$169,877; Solano-$167,000; Napa-$128,416.

    San Mateo County pays a salary of $115,975, with employer contribution to pension at $11,279. Compare that to Sonoma County, which pays a salary of $133,640, with employer contribution to pension at $50,400. And, guess what!! We, the taxpayers of Sonoma County, pay the most toward Supervisors’ pensions in all of the nine Bay Area Counties.

    The Referendum Process is the voters constitutional right to control Supervisors’ salaries. California Constitution XI (b) reads:

    The Legislature shall provide for county powers, an elected
    county sheriff, an elected district attorney, an elected assessor,
    and an elected governing body in each county. Except as provided in
    subdivision (b) of Section 4 of this article, each governing body
    shall prescribe by ordinance the compensation of its members, BUT THE

    We need to start a petition to halt the Supervisor Compensation Ordinance. Can we count on Sonoma Taxpayers Association and New Sonoma to assist with this? We might even get assistance from the SEIU members. Wouldn’t that be great…Republicans, Tea Partiers, Blue Dog Democrats, Liberals and Union members working together to bring about change?

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  19. Road Worker says:

    Once again all County employees are being lumped in one nice little tidy group. For once the front-line employees should have been spared. I think all would agree that cuts need to be made. Department heads, and Management should be looked at first. In my department front-line employees have not received a cost of living raise in seven years, while the cost of medical has skyrocketed. I had to drop medical coverage for my children because the cheapest county plan was still too much ($1100 monthly out of pocket).The perception is that County workers are overpaid and have excellent benefits. I make $21 an hour and have no county health coverage for my wife and children. At 61 years old I would make roughly 60% of my regular pay in retirement. While I appreciate a pension and my job, these numbers are clearly not excessive. The cuts in salaries and pensions need to be at the top. The department heads are extremely over-compensated. There are too many management positions in relation to front-line workers. Do department heads really need car allowances? If I made $226,000 a year I think I could afford to buy my own car. Should they be given a raise for giving a years notice to quit, and have their pension be based on that “highest year” salary? The Board of Supervisors are in a tough spot because the public wants to see broad cuts county wide and they want to appease those they represent, but cutting all county workers pay and pensions is not the answer. The rank and file workers have been shouldering the burden for too long. The cuts need to be made at the top, and they need to be deep.

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  20. Board Watcher says:

    Since when is stating an intention the same as leadership? If the unions don’t agree, which seems likely from the statements in the article, then this “intent” is just pomp and show.

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  21. Grapevines says:

    Politicians will say that they “unanimously endorsed proposed changes”, but when it comes down to where the tire meets the road, they cave in. Endorsing then and announcing they do is just lip service intended to create the illusion that they are looking for changes. The only change that matters to them is changing the funds that you earn from your pocket to theirs.

    Anyone want a lesson in hypocrisy? Just compare the “promises made” or “statements supporting” to ACTUAL PERFORMANCE!!

    Don’t any of you even think for a minute that Queen Valery Brown and court is going to cut off any of their pensions or affect the funding of those who donated to their campaigns. And we all know who that is.

    Unions, lawyers, and it seems, groups that provide “Study forums” that everything gets referred to at the tune of $200,000 and up.

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  22. Snarky says:

    Lets be Reasonable & Still Waters:

    Why waste your time with all the calculations?

    Are you public employees trying to hone the system to your favor yet again?

    The time has come to dismantle the entire public employee pension scam and particularly the “public safety pensions” which include more than simply fire and police.

    Social security is good enough for the general public and its good enough for you.

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  23. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @RC, yes, an argument could be made for 2%, assuming that with SS a person would get around 75% at retirement, which is what most experts say is needed to continue at the same level. And an argument could also be made that some jobs are harder on the body than others – but then street crews would then be able to retire sooner than public safety…!

    Regardless of what the pension levels for NEW employees are, the trick to saving more now is to give CURRENT employees an incentive to voluntarily switch to lower pension plans. If all public employees had to pay 50% of the cost of any defined benefit pension plan, and they had the option of choosing what the new employees got, then many of the younger current employees would switch in order to pay lower deductions and receive more take home pay. Even some older employees might take that offer if it was not retroactive. Many miscellaneous employees already pay close to 50%, but few public safety folks pay any where near that, and their unions have a lot of political clout – both local and at the state level…

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  24. Still Waters says:

    I hope everyone out there knows that Mr. Clites does NOT speak for all county employees, especially not SEIU members. Ed Clites will also tell you that his members LOVE MTO because they make more in OT in a year of furloughs than they do in a regular year.

    SEIU members want leadership to show they CAN LEAD by taking action, not wishy-washy statements of intent. What are they afraid of? They have the power to hold themselves accountable and take action to make some of those changes RIGHT NOW without waiting.

    What’s missing from their Intent? Let’s talk about pension caps. There is a Federal limit on the amount of pension government employees can recieve. It’s in the neighborhood of $214,000/yr. For Sonoma County Big Fish that retired with MORE than that amount, the County makes up the difference FROM THE GENERAL FUND! Check it out. It was an article in the Press Democrat a couple months ago. This practice needs to stop NOW.

    Management can cash out 120-200 hours of vacation a year. SEIU employees can only cash out 80 hrs/year. When SEIU asked the County how the employees were going to afford to pay 15%+ increases in health care costs earlier this year, the County replied “they can use the 80 hrs of vacation cash out to pay for their premiums.”

    For 3+ years of SEIU employees have taken pay cuts in the form of furloughs, which did nothing more than subsidize the unique and costly perks for the Big Fish and overtime for public safety.

    AND HERE IS THE REAL KICKER…Check out the final budget numbers after the close of the 2011-2012 fiscal year. $24 Million in surplus + overestimated expenses of another $50+ Million. All this goes back to the County for the 2012-2013 budget – or at least it should.

    It must be hard to cry poor when your mouth is stuffed with hidden surplus cash.

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  25. Snarky says:

    Well, well, well.

    Look at the following headline that just popped up online from the LA Times:

    “” Taxpayers in Los Angeles will see retirement costs for police officers and firefighters climb by 56% over the next four years, even after passage of a ballot measure that trimmed the pension benefits paid to new hires, according to projections released by city budget officials.”"

    L.A. Times (online)
    August 16, 2012

    The greedy “public safety” pension system needs to be dismantled and every employee given a chance to either resign or accept social security instead of their current scam.

    There are thousands of qualified applicants just waiting to take any job opening that might come about due to resignations of greedy employees.

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  26. Snarky says:

    To “Lets Be Reasonable” :

    Lets take it a step further.

    To your question, “are the police & fire more deserving” ??????

    I suggest to you that the answer is “no,” … and neither are any of the other public employees.

    Why do they get their own cozy pension system rather than social security like the rest of us??

    Eliminate the public pensions and the public employees ability to retire 17 years (age 50 vs. 67) before the rest of us.

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  27. Snarky says:

    At the risk of irritating the fellow who posts as “retired cop” and other names, I AGAIN ask that the Press Democrat publish the full list of all public employee job categories which fall under the umbrella title of “Public Safety” with regard to public pensions.

    As I’ve posted before, the “public safety” pensions are handed out to far more job categories than merely cops & firemen.

    Where is the list for your subscribers, PRESS DEMO ??????????????????????

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  28. Reality Check says:


    Agree, although 2% per year is plenty generous. 60% after 30 years, plus SS, provides a pension sufficient to maintain a person’s standard of living, assuming didn’t load themselves up with debt.

    Differences in compensation should be realized in salary differences. One exception, retirement age. A case can be made to allow earlier retirement for certain occupations.

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  29. truthful says:

    Everyone should read the “intent board Resolution” from the tuesday, August 16 board agenda.

    Board should identify “all labor groups” that they represent in the document. The Board should also demonstrate what they mean by “required” actuarial work.

    the board leading the way with a “intended 6.9%” reduction in total compensation should of happened long ago before they reduced services to the public. The 6.9% is primarily the “intended emlimination” of their “employer paid only deferred comp at that is contributed at 5-6% of their salary.

    The board if they were real leaders should repeal provisions of the County Ordinance 5179 that establishes costly special pension enhancements and spiking privilges for Board of Supervisors which inlcude
    a 50% pick up of County Supervisor share of the retirement contribution. (Note this pension pick up in not identified as such on the State Controller’s Website. Allowing County Supervisors a pensionable cash out of up to 200 hours of Admininstrative Leave during the 12month preiod preceding retirement.
    Providing Board of Supervisors 89 hours of Administrative Leave. this is 12 hours more than what Department heads get.
    Allowing Board of Supervisors a pensionable flat $320.00 bi weekly ($8,320.00 anuually) vehicle allowance. They should just get mileage like most all other county employees.

    Leaders really………..

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  30. Accountable says:

    @David Stubblebine – thanks for clarifying the representation configuration of SCLEA. It still doesn’t change the fact that Sonoma County Correctional Deputies are NOT UNDERPAID for the County’s size and ranking in Bay Area Cost of Living. We are closest in size and cost of living to Solano, but the TCOE of our Correctional Deputies is significantly more.

    In fact, when compared again to Santa Clara County, Correctional Deputies are paid more. In 2010, Sonoma County had 20 Correctional Deputies whose TCOE was over $170,000, while Santa Clara County had only 8 Correctional Deputies whose TCOE was over that amount.

    Mr. Clites needs to give us these supposed comparable Bay Area counties that pay more.

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  31. Lets be Reasonable says:

    Why the difference between Public Safety and the rest? Are they somehow more deserving!? Why not compromise at 2.5% for all employees? And let all employees, including current employees pay for half the cost? Then give current employees the option of switching to the lower pension plan in order to boost take home pay.

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  32. Marc says:

    We can change the Contract anytime it expires but the Politicians are Gutless and bend to the wind. Who else would sign contracts for more than they could afford and NOT go bankrupt!

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  33. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    It’s not likely the unions are going to accept this “offer” from the BOS. First of all, there is NO COMMITMENT from the BOS to bring the 6:1 ratio of rank and file to management in line. IN FACT, they have been ADDING management since the first of the year some of them BRAND NEW POSITIONS, some of them really high level high paid high perks jobs. Just check the Sonoma County Jobs lists going back to 1/1 as proof.
    3% “across the board cuts” barely makes a dent in an over $100,000 salary but can make someone who makes significantly less lose their home. One county employee I know just got a $300 rent increase on her “cheap” apartment. With a 3% cut she’s HOMELESS. The rank and file, but ESPECIALLY SEIU employees, took the brunt last time with the layoffs and imposed insurance cuts so high that families can’t afford to cover their family members WHOSE CHILDREN ARE NOW ON TAX PAID HEALTHY FAMILIES. They help the community’s children find healthcare and can’t even cover their own children without also going on the dole. It’s shameful.
    AS for MTO-that was a laugh. The safety employees with their overtime for coverage of their own MTO took most of the money saved throughout the county. The MTO savings from those who can’t get overtime actually was used to pay for the safety employees’ overtime. Those scammers at the Sheriff’s dept really know how to milk the system. The county also lost the fed and state matches for some positions for the week that wasn’t worked.

    The public needs services. Rank and file public employees provide those services, managers don’t. Rank and file employees are cheaper to fund. There should be more rank and file and fewer managers, especially middle managers. Lay off 44 managers at an average of $100,000 saves $4.4 million even before adding the savings from the perks not paid (probably more than $1.4M). Eliminate the county paid deferred comp and that’s another $4 million saved per year. That’s $9.8M right there along with a huge dent in future pension liability.
    The budget is balanced this year. Why take more from the rank and file, most of whom have NO WAY TO PAD THEIR PENSIONS, and who work directly with the public and keep the high paid managers?

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  34. jgt says:

    The elephant in the room is the salaries and pensions for firefighters and police is what’s breaking the bank.
    Other county employees have given concessions. Politicians don’t want to stand up to public safety because they’re afraid of the political fallout.
    Why doesn’t the press democrat print the facts of the total compensation police and firefighters are receiving? Many of the local agencies pay nothing into their retirement or towards their health benefits which means the county and cities pick up the tab.
    Sgt. Ed Clites comment about asking for a raise shows the public how out of touch with the real world the police really are. It shows they are here to protect and serve themselves not the public.

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  35. Tom Lynch says:

    Thank you to the new board for finally starting to do something to reform a retirement system responsible for the dramatic demise of essential services Sonoma County used to provide for generations. Reducing salaries and benefits by $13 Million on a $300 Million with an additional $200 Million in benefits is a start.

    However last year alone, Sonoma County paid in $150 Million toward retirement benefits, plus incurred an increase in unfunded pension liability of $150 Million, that has to be paid back over the next 20 years at 7.75% interest of $150 Million.

    Essentially, barring a miraculous stock market boom of 10% returns for the next 20 years; all 3500 County employees incurred the County a debt principal and interest equal to their entire salaries for 2011. This has been happening now for five years in a row with a debt of $1.5 Billion paid over 20 years.

    The problem is we are providing a salary and benefit for one years service with the benefit paid over the next 20-30 years. We need to fully fund the benefit the year of service, and the cost needs to be shared equally between the taxpayers and our public servants.

    It is not fair to the taxpayers, our County workers, nor the retirees who’s benefits are imperiled through not fully funding this system. If you cannot pay a benefit today, how can you hope to pay for it tomorrow?


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  36. Accountable says:

    “We’re going to ask for a pay raise because we don’t think we’re being paid enough compared to other counties,” Clites said. Are you kidding me? What counties…give us specific names!

    I have done the research, and that is an absurd comment. The nine Bay Area Counties’ Cost of Living ranks as follows: Marin, Santa Clara (Silicon Valley), San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma, and Solano.

    In 2010, there were 62 Sonoma County Deputy Sheriffs whose yearly Total Cost of Employment exceeded $200,000. The next highest was Contra Costa, where only 30 Deputy Sheriffs TCOE exceeded $200,000. Santa Clara, with a population 4 times the size of Sonoma and one of the most expensive areas in the nation, had only 20 Deputy Sheriffs whose TCOE exceeded $200,000. http://www.mercurynews.com/salaries/bay-area/2011.

    These ridiculous statements coming from SCLEA only serves to infuriate and galvanize the 99.9% of Sonoma County population who are not So Co Law Enforcement employees.

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  37. R.B.Fish says:

    Absolutely pathetic leadership from BOS (each and every one a failure to the public)and the rest of county and city leadership because they all coming up the same solutions. THE UNIONS RUN THE GOVERNMENT AND POLITICOS DO WHAT THEY ARE TOLD!
    Unfotunately Sonoma County is going down the tubes. The crime, traffic congestions, fees, are all going to escalate.

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  38. Reality Check says:

    Supply and demand works well at determining compensation. If a city wants to hire more police officers at $60k plus benefits and gets no qualified applicants, it knows what it must do.

    Last time I read about the fire department hiring, they were flooded with applicants, flooded. the job of fire fighters has become less about fighting fires, a dirty and dangerous job, and more about being a very high paid EMT.

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  39. David Stubblebine says:

    I find it ironically amusing that a poster using the name “Brown Act Jack” advocates such a gross violation of the law. Public employers cannot impose reduced benefits without first bargaining and negotiating in good faith. Only if that process takes place but does not produce a deal that is agreeable to all parties can the prospect of imposing a contract be contemplated. That’s fair and that’s the law.

    Also, I have rarely agreed with GAJ but I have normally found him to be better informed than he is here (“The fact that the cops want a raise . . .”). The Sonoma County Law Enforcement Association (SCLEA) does not represent the cops; i.e., Sheriff Deputies. SCLEA represents corrections, probation, and other county cop-types, but the actual street cops (deputies) have their own association (the DSA) that was not quoted in this article.

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  40. Sonoma Coma says:

    I thought the public safety motto is to “protect and serve”… it seems to sound more like “pension we deserve” after reading this article.

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  41. GAJ says:

    All 3% vesting should be eliminated.

    The fact that the cops want a raise is ludicrous but predictable.

    They are, after all, the “chosen” ones and must be treated according…according to them.

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  42. brown act jack says:

    Brilliant actions by supes. They recommend these changes, please the public who doesn’t think to well, and then sit back and wait for applause.
    You see, they know that the employees will not approve all of that stuff, and then they can blame the employees for the failures. LOL

    You have to IMPOSE the changes! You can not expect people to hurt their financial situations if they can help it.

    But, what do you expect from politicians?

    they are , after all, political people!

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