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Update: Petaluma adopts tighter retirement benefits for new employees


The Petaluma City Council Thursday unanimously approved an amendment to its contract with the state retirement system to create a second tier of retirement benefits for new employees.

The changes take effect today and cover non-public safety employees of the city’s largest union. Earlier, the city reached similar agreements with its police, fire and other bargaining groups.

New non-public safety employees will have to wait until age 60, instead of 55, to be able to retire with a pension equal to 2 percent of their pay per year. New police and firefighters have to work to 55, up from age 50, for a maximum of 3 percent yearly accumulation.

The two-tiered retirement system provides no immediate savings to the city and only modest savings in the coming decades as the workforce turns over.

When the ratio becomes half-and-half between first- and second-tier workers, the city will save just under $600,000 annually in its contribution to pension benefits.

Petaluma’s public safety employees contribute 9 percent of their salaries to retirement, while miscellaneous employees contribute 7 percent.

(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.)

13 Responses to “Update: Petaluma adopts tighter retirement benefits for new employees”

  1. Originalst says:

    How many people have understood the double dipping that took place for years and decades with city workers all over the nation.
    Police would work 20 years from age 20 or 22 and get a pension then work another 20 years at another job and receive another pension or Social Security. Firemen did the same! Yet we are to believe they cant work past 55 today? No pension accrued should be payable until the same age as for Social Security. There are many more jobs more strenuous or risky than police and fire. Yet they don’t get SS at 55?

    The jobs one has is by choice and he should prepare for what that jobs entails in his finances!

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  2. David Stubblebine says:

    @RB Fish: You offered a very detailed description of your suggestion. Since NO ONE with the education, skills, and qualifications currently employed in public service would take a job under these conditions, please add your ideas for how you would recruit people into this draconian system and, more importantly, describe your proportionally reduced expectations for services from the middle school drop-outs that would be the extent of your hiring pool.

    You say, “Public service personnel should not have competitive salaries with the private sector.” This statement is empty wishful-thinking at best. The public and private sectors draw from the same hiring pool so competition for talent is built-in; like it or not. If smart, capable people can be adequately paid in the private sector, why would they consider being poorly paid in your public sector?

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  3. Retired Cop says:

    How about we go with the plan they will ultimately go with, keep most of it the way it is and you pay more taxes? Sounds good to most since they keep electing the same people. By all means, keep your suggestions coming, they are entertaining, if nothing else.

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  4. GAJ says:

    I certainly don’t see a problem with a 60 year old cop…heck, if this guy can make it to 71 I’m sure the wimpy Sonoma County cops can make it to 60:


    In any event, cops/fire shouldn’t be able to collect retirement benefits until age 60. With their pay, if they retire in their 50′s, they should easily be able to set aside money to live on until they can access their retirement.

    The implication is that cops/fire have to access retirement immediately upon retirement which is patently ridiculous.

    Cops/fire do NOT die sooner than “general” employees for crying out loud. CalPers busted that myth years ago.

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  5. R. B. Fish says:

    @ David Stubbebine. Let me be more clear. Cities should contract out all major construction related activties with only a small non-union staff to perform light, daily or as needed activties.Let out contracts should competitively bid over a certain amount of say $30-$50K.

    I am unfortunately very much aware of the construction contractor relationship in the county, state and country. It is one critical reason to stop illegal immigration. The customer will get consistently higher quality services and perhaps provide opportunities ex public service personnel and veterans to find

    End all public service unions. Public safety service personnel such as police, fire and first responders should have a life time cap of $100,000 salary with a $40,000 pension cap working no longer than 20 years in public service. No double or triple dipping. If you want a second job or career it should be outside public service other than volunteering. The public sector has paid for your training and expertise so one should be a valuable commodity in the private sector provided there is a need for service.

    Public service managers inluding city managers should have a cap of $120,000 with 20 years of work and $50,000 pension cap. All above mentioned parties should contribute half salary for health insurance.

    Public service personnel work for the public and must be paid from the budget so salaries should not be paid beyond the budget allows. Public service personnel should not have competitive salaries with the private sector. They work for the public tax payer and not the market. If public service personnel are so smart and valuable to compare salaries with the performance based private sector let them take the risk like 90-95% of all Americans. This is America and other taxpaying citizens should have opportunity to work for the public. Why should 4-6% of the county population control through the union structure all public services jobs with some members working 35-40 years earning over $200,000.

    A model like this would provide a high level of service to the public, fairness to taxpayers looking for empoyment,greatly reduce conflicts of interest and political favors,confidence and feeling of ownership by the taxpaying public, and a level of credibility for our elected officals.

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  6. Don't get confused by facts says:

    David don’t spoil their fun. GAJ wants 60 year old cops and RBF wants to fire anyone with 20 years experience. Let them have their fun and bash without thought. Brilliant no, but amusing yes.

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  7. David Stubblebine says:

    LBR: Your point in response to Over Easy is spot on.

    RB Fish: You say, “Contract all construction and major maintenance work out to non-union contractors and stop supporting illegal aliens.” Who do you think non-union contractors hire? Their entire interview process is “Are you able to climb into the back of my pick-up?” And what does it mean “Public safety service personnel have 20 year working cap and $100 salary for top personnel”? Are you suggesting police and fire people must look for other work after 20 years? I assume “$100 salary” means $100K salary but even so; your suggestion means safety managers would work for a TON less than private sector managers with commensurate caps trickling down to the lower levels. Along with your 20 year cap idea, this results in turning over our essential services jobs only to people unable to find other work – the bottom of the hiring pool. Brilliant.

    Some creative thinking is required but let’s base our remarks on actual facts (Over Easy) and think our scenarios all the way through (RB Fish).

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  8. R. B. Fish says:

    End public employees unions. Public safety service personnel have 20 year working cap and $100 salary for top personnel.Contract all construction and major maintenance work out to non-union contractors and stop supporting illegal aliens.

    If you are politican and run with this ideas you win as even the lazy liberals and starting to pay attention as their income and quality of life is deteriorating.

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  9. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @OE – “Why in the world are cities performing road and construction work? There are PLENTY reputable construction companies around.”
    Most of this work is already done by the private sector. Public employees provide oversight, but the bulk of all new construction, as well as doing slurry seals and the like, are already contracted out.

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  10. Over Easy says:

    Congratulations Petaluma, this is an important first step! With the huge unfunded liability the city will need to go MUCH MUCH deeper.

    The crux of the problem is not that public employee salaries are too high it is having a “pension” system which depends on the stock market performing at 7%+ to self fund, which it has not for years. Time to give 401Ks rather than pensions. It is good enough for the rest of us.

    All cities and the county should outsource out as much non police and fire service’s to private companies as possible. Why in the world are cities performing road and construction work? There are PLENTY reputable construction companies around.

    Cities would only pay when they use the service. This eliminates unnecessary city overhead staff and lets professionals actually do the work. It is win win for the tax payers.

    The wind of change is shifting for public employees. Best dust off the skills and get ready to compete in the real world. It was nice while it lasted.

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  11. GAJ says:

    Cry me a river Bear.

    A Pension that vests at 2%/year with a retirement at 60 years old, based on the three HIGHEST years of pay, is extremely generous.

    The ability of cops to retire at 55 is still ridiculously generous.

    You do realize that for most people, (not me as I started my own plans at 21), Social Security is their only retirement…and they will receive less than they paid in and aren’t able to fully access that miniscule amount until age 65 or as late as 67 depending on birth date.

    No question that public pensions even with “reform” remain untenable as being able to take out far far more than you paid in remains an unaffordable “gift” on the back of the hapless taxpayer.

    The fact that you think this “reform” amounts to “screwing” employees is laughable and shows how out of touch you are and how skewed the thinking of Public Employees is.

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  12. Follower says:

    The Government spending less money. Seems like I’ve heard that concept somewhere before…

    Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Even if it’s one of the horses that escaped before you closed the barn door.

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  13. bear says:

    Is this a joke? Save $203,000 by screwing new employees?

    Show me policy that will boost the local economy, increase employment and tax revenues, and return things to the same condition they were in 2000.

    Salaries will have to go up. Unless we can find a lot of minimum wage workers.

    My advice? Don’t call 911.

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