Long-sought changes to curb Sonoma County’s public pension costs are included in a proposed labor contract that covers about half the county workforce and is up for approval by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
An interim appointment to one of Sonoma County government’s most embattled jobs — transportation and public works director — could go to two people under a proposal to be considered today by the county Board of Supervisors.
After spending a day digesting the details of Gov. Jerry Brown’s complex pension deal pending in the Legislature, local officials say it would impact not only future local public employees but thousands of current workers, too. By enacting ‘anti-spiking’ provisions for existing workers, requiring employees to pay half the cost of their pensions and shifting the landscape for labor negotiations, it is becoming clear that the governor’s plan goes beyond state employees and would have wide-ranging implications for local governments. Future employees would face caps on pensions and less generous pension formulas.
Santa Rosa today will consider spending up to $200,000 to study whether it makes sense to build a tunnel under the SMART rail line to help pedestrians and bicyclists go under the tracks at Jennings Avenue.
For the first time in four years, Sonoma County supervisors are set to consider a balanced budget Monday when they begin hearings on a spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
Sonoma County government faces its fourth consecutive year of budget reductions, with a projected $10.4 million general fund deficit in the coming 2012-2013 fiscal year, county officials said Tuesday. Increasing county costs, including rising salary and benefit expenses, have continued to outpace flat or declining revenues. “We are not going to get out of this mess without permanent change in our budgeting. And that’s going to mean permanent reductions in our pay and/or our pensions,” Supervisor Mike McGuire said.
In 2002, at the urging of labor and with the endorsement of management, the county Board of Supervisors approved a more generous set of pension benefits for all current workers. The change, fueled by salary increases and combined with other workforce trends, is now seen as driving the upward spiral in pension costs.
The new general manager for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit district, veteran Marin County public works administrator Farhad Mansourian, has a compensation package that puts him near the top of the pay scale for North Bay public officials. “This is not a typical public works project, nor is he a typical hire,” said SMART Director Carol Russell, a Cloverdale councilwoman and retired professional recruiter.
Sonoma County officials said Tuesday they are prepared to handle the influx of felons that will begin in two months when the state prison system starts transferring “low-level” offenders to relieve chronic overcrowding. However, the county will need to hire additional correctional officers by spring. And county officials are uncertain whether state funding for the program is adequate.