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July 23, 2009

Comments

Holy Roller

First of all the money spent on crossing guards is wrong.
The crossing guard issue is a political football.
If you are against the City of Burlingame paying for an employee that works for the school district as a crossing guard, then you are for children getting run over by cars at crosswalks.
Burlingame is such a small town that elections can be won or lost on issues that have nothing to do with The City's interest.
That is the largest problem we face.
Crossing guards-$60,000.00
Maintenance of Burlingame School Sports Fields-$200,321.00.
Maintenance of the Soccer Center, and baseball fields-$331,562.00.

That is our taxes at work paying for things that have nothing to do with infrastructure. Or people who live in Burlingame.
Until citizens in Burlingame really put in the time and effort to find out what our taxes pay for, and to who, we will always be upset when we are asked to pay more.
Is anyone aware that @ 8 months ago, the Burlingame Park Dept. Got rid of the Director-Randy Schartz,and Asst. Director Tim Richmond? The P&R Dept is still going strong, not missing a beat. So where, was over a quarter of a million dollars a year, plus benefits, being spent on?
Just because they say it is so, doesn't make it true.
Anyone who cares about making Burlingame a great place to live, and can afford it should really get involved with City Goverment.
This is a small town with a lot of money. Favors and stepping stones.

Come On

You are incoherent. Perhaps you need help. At a minimum you need a really good editor. You might have good points but few can understand what you are writing about. Please try again, really slowly this time.

Russ

Posted here is an opinion piece from the SF Chron, written by Burlingame City Manager Jim Nantell. Seems like this perspective is relevant to the discussion of budgets, etc.

State leaders failed to stand up to unions.

When things get tough, the tough get going. In California, local elected leaders continue to make tough choices to balance city and county budgets, while our state leaders have failed to lead.

In the late 1990s, the state of California enhanced retirement packages for firefighters and law enforcement unions and approved binding arbitration for contract negotiations. This gave police and firefighters unions tremendous leverage at the bargaining table, essentially forcing cities to enhance their retirement benefits for public safety workers.

Those enhanced benefits are an ever-increasing drain on city resources while other sources of revenue are shrinking. They cost Burlingame at least $2.6 million more each year, forcing city leaders to make dramatic reductions in police, fire, library, park and recreation services.

When California ran out of money, city officials hoped that state elected leaders would reverse these excessive retirement benefits and pave the way for cities to follow. It would have taken a modicum of courage to pass legislation that would have discontinued for all new employees the retirement option that gives 3 percent of salary for each year worked at 50 years of age. But the state leaders ducked their responsibility.

The evidence is clear that providing retirement benefits at this level will continue to require reductions in all city services and will likely result in more California cities following Vallejo into bankruptcy. For cities, employee benefit compensation represents 70 to 80 percent of general fund spending. Cities alone cannot change these statewide compensation practices.

State legislative leaders failed to show courage under fire and also pushed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to abandon his efforts to create a two-tier retirement system for state workers that would have discontinued the 3 percent formulas for all new state employees. Instead, they are attempting to balance the state budget on the backs of local cities.

Elizabeth

Employees unions are the biggest problem for Federal, State and City Budgets. Until they increase that age of retirement with full benefits, nothing good will come to California or the country for that matter. jim Nantell is correct. The state leaders did fail by not addressing labor unions. Tell me where in any private sector job you can retire at 51 to 53 years of age with 90 to 100% of your salary and medical benefits. In some cases, they get more money in retirement than they did working.. Unbelieveable.. Wake up people!

Holy Roller

The only employees in the State of California that receive a 3% at 50 are the Police and Firefighters.
I do not know why our elected leaders continue not use the P word, or the F word when informing the regular Joe's
(J word) which employee group feeds at this table.
By the way, does anyone know what the special benefit the City of Burlingame Firefighters gave up regarding "not using sick leave?"
The Police and Firefighters are the reason the Cities are suffering.
Not the sewer workers.

Holy Roller

PS
The trend of enhanced retirement benifits for "Safety Sevice Employees" took off as the Dot Com. industry was flourishing, and 9/11 happened.
Speculation and fear drove us to make bad decisions. Hopefully we will learn from that.
But I thought we would have learned from the S&L bailouts in the 1980's.
We will see...

Lorne

Right on, Jim!

Lorne

Interesting perspective on challenges faced nationwide, not just Detroit, in today's Financial Times:

Detroit
Published: July 29 2009 09:31 | Last updated: July 29 2009 19:21

The words “Detroit” and “bankruptcy” carry associations with carmakers. But Motown itself might take that route if Mayor Dave Bing cannot secure big concessions from unionised employees.

Chapter 9 bankruptcies, which cover US municipalities, are rare and usually involve small towns. Other big cities such as New York, Cleveland and Philadelphia have approached the brink in the past and pulled back – a reflection of how disadvantageous such filings have been. Before Orange County California’s investment losses made it the largest Chapter 9, there were 362 filings in 60 years for a cumulative $217m. So a Detroit bankruptcy would be a whopper and a disturbing precedent.

It is easy to dismiss Detroit as an outlier given its considerable woes. One of the most crime-ridden cities in America, its population has fallen by half, or nearly 1m, since 1950; the median house can also be bought for just $7,500. Unemployment is two and a half times the national average and top city officials have faced criminal charges recently.

Could Detroit be the tip of a municipal bankruptcy iceberg? Fitch Ratings highlights its pension financing bonds as a key area of concern. But poor returns and insufficient contributions are a problem for public pensions nationwide. A recent study in New York state concluded that towns there would have to quadruple contributions by 2015 to 30 per cent of payrolls, even assuming that equities will also surge by more than 70 per cent. Using private sector benchmarks, University of Chicago professors estimated public shortfalls nationwide at $87,000 per participant – and that was before the financial crisis.

Detroit says bankruptcy is a last resort. But if it files, the implications for America’s 52,000 local debt issuers and its $2,700bn municipal bond market are unclear. It may lessen the stigma, prompting copycats, or be so awful that mayors and unions elsewhere will be spurred to reach concessions. Both will watch Detroit carefully.

Holy Roller

I wanted to make an apolegy regarding something I stated regarding the paving of streets that I thought did not need it.
I have found out that these projects are planned out years in advance based on information and studies done to keep costs resonible.(It is a pleasure to drive on.)
I mentioned something about Jim Nantell-City Manager that was wrong.
He is doing a good job. A forward thinking individual.
Nevertheless, he may be leaving soon, and I sure hope the new guy has thick skin. They'll need it in these times.

Joe

According to the Sacramento Bee's "See how much your local government will lose under the state budget" database Burlingame's total losses are estimated to be $1,146,343.

These estimates are drawn from submissions by local government associations, but are not named on the SacBee's site.

Holy Roller

I read a "Hit peice" in the Post yesterday. It was an editorial by a Multi-millionaire business/Real Estate owner explaining how the people who keep her water flowing, toilet flushing are taking advantage of her "goodwill."
She broke the facts down to show that the labor issues facing the City of PA are the fault of the citizens who put their time into keeping this place going. I am talking of the pay/benefit packages given to all the professionals.
You get what you pay for DD.
What would happen to your family connections if you pulled out the pay /benefit package your people/family recieve?
What do you think is fair?
Please lay it out.
Let everyone know what you think is a fair wage.
Before that happens, lets talk to your gardener and find out what benefits he is paying to his employees.
Worker Comp., SS, unemployment. Are they all legal? Or have they stolen SS numbers?
I think it is a great time for people to drive by your homes.
Ask questions.

Lorne

From the Sacramento Bee:

Published Tuesday, Jun. 30, 2009


California public employee unions already reeling from pay cuts have been dealt a new blow by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – a push to lower pension and retiree health care benefits for state workers hired after today.

Schwarzenegger's call for creation of a two-tier system of retiree benefits was part of a package of proposals submitted to Democratic leaders Saturday in tense negotiations over the state's $24.3 billion shortfall.

The plan would not affect existing state employees.

The governor previously had imposed about a 9 percent pay cut on state workers by requiring two unpaid furlough days per month. Last week he threatened to add a third furlough day unless a budget deal was struck immediately.

"Attacking hard-earned pensions, on top of a pay cut, does not solve the crisis," said Yvonne Walker, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1000.

"The governor should go after larger dollars that will make an impact now, by closing corporate tax loopholes and putting a stop to $34 billion in wasteful vendor contracts," Walker said in a written statement.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he is willing to consider pension changes but will not be ramrodded by the governor.

"The entire issue of pension reform deserves real consideration in the Legislature, but it's not right to jam it into a budget agreement in (the final) hours," Steinberg said.

Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's spokesman, said the pension and retiree health care proposals for future state workers were necessitated by Democrats' rejection of about $5 billion in program cuts sought by the governor.

"What the Democrats have said up to this point is, 'We don't want to eliminate (some programs targeted by Schwarzenegger), and we don't want to make them run more efficiently – what we want to do is raise taxes to pay for them.' And that's unacceptable," McLear said.

Although the two-tier pension proposal would not save much money in the coming fiscal year, McLear said it is relevant to current budget negotiations because it could ease fiscal pressures potentially created in coming years by Democrats' failure to cut deeply enough into operational costs now.

Specifically, Schwarzenegger's retiree proposals for future state workers would:

• Alter the pension formula to ensure lower benefits or longer public service. For example, most state workers who are not public safety employees now may retire at age 55 with a pension totaling 2 percent of their salary multiplied by number of years worked. The new formula would pay that benefit at age 60.

• Compute pensions for peace officers, firefighters and highway patrol officers based on the highest three years of compensation earned, rather than the highest single year.

• Provide lifetime health care benefits only for retirees who have worked 25 years. Currently, the state pays 50 percent of retiree health insurance costs for employees with 10 years of service. The percentage rises 5 percent annually, to 100 percent for 20-year employees.

• Lower the state's contribution for retiree health care benefits from 100 percent of the average HMO premium to an amount that matches the contribution for active state employees – generally 85 percent of the insurance premium.

David Crane, a special adviser to Schwarzenegger on jobs and economic growth, estimated that the pension and health care proposals for future state employees could save taxpayers about $95 billion over the next 30 years.

"We'd still have one of the finest pension systems in the country," he added.

Crane said the proposals could free future funds for public programs. Democratic lawmakers have complained in recent weeks that the state's massive budget gap threatens to create gaping holes in the safety net for vulnerable Californians.

"I, for the life of me, cannot understand why people who care about the financing of those programs would not say, 'We heartily embrace this (proposal), the sooner the better,' " he said.

But Carroll Wills, spokesman for California Professional Firefighters, characterized the two-tier approach as "manifestly unfair."

"Essentially what you're talking about at its core is unequal pay for equal work," he said.

Crane said the state's current retirement system has an unfunded liability of up to several hundred billion dollars, depending upon future earnings, to finance pension and retiree health care benefits.

Keith Richman, a former Republican assemblyman who now leads a nonprofit foundation pushing for state pension reform, said it is unlikely that lawmakers would agree to substantial changes if they are not accomplished in budget talks.

"The criticism of Sacramento is that it always kicks the can down the road," he said.

Lorne

Peninsula task force of politicians to moderate public employee salaries

By Mike Rosenberg
San Mateo County Times
Posted: 08/02/2009 04:02:26 PM PDT
Updated: 08/02/2009 09:15:56 PM PDT


SAN MATEO COUNTY — With communities throughout the Peninsula cutting services and raising fees to tackle budget problems, local policymakers are forming a task force to target each community's chief expense: public employees.

The Compensation Task Force will aid San Mateo County cities as they negotiate new contracts with their labor groups, or amend deals to cope with budget deficits. The panel will begin meeting Thursday in Burlingame with the aim of providing recommendations or a list of ideas to Peninsula communities by November.

Seven local leaders will head the panel, which will report to the San Mateo County Council of Cities, an association of all 20 cities in the county.

As cities cut services and enact tax and fee increases to solve budget deficits, an growing number of residents have begun asking leaders to also cut wages and benefits to public employees. City employees, in departments such as police, fire, public works, and parks and recreation, typically earn better wages than private-sector workers and are less likely to be laid off.

Officials have tackled the issue publicly in the past few months, and many city employee union groups across the county have agreed to forgo upcoming scheduled pay raises. The county's civil grand jury also recently investigated the issue and advised cities to reverse the trend of escalating employee costs.

By working with other communities, the task force hopes to collect


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ideas from neighboring cities and use the current economic crisis as an opportunity to scrutinize previous policies that may have been costing taxpayers.

Panelists will look at the whole package of employee costs — salaries, benefits, retirement plans and more.

"We can use each other's expertise and experience, we can use the broad perspective of each city," said Pacifica Mayor Pro Tem Sue Digre, a task force member. "I think we all realize that services are important and employees are very important, but we also have to be sustainable."

When one city reaches a contract with a union group, it affects other communities on the Peninsula, said Belmont Councilman Warren Lieberman, another task force member.

Cities regularly try to maintain employee salaries that are on par or above the county average. In the corporate world, he noted, salaries often are private.

Millbrae Councilwoman Marge Colapietro, another task force member, said the group is still hammering out its agenda and is not sure yet how the meetings will function. She said they hope to use information already gathered by a separate group of Peninsula city staff members, called the Municipal Employee Relations Committee, which has been meeting to discuss this topic for nearly a year.

The other four task force members are Hillsborough Mayor Christine Krolik, Brisbane City Manager Clay Holstine, Atherton Mayor Jerry Carlson and Menlo Park Councilman John Boyle. Burlingame City Manager Jim Nantell will serve as the panel's liaison.

Lorne

Huge jump in Palo Alto retirees' health benefits
Waves of retirees, spiraling health-care costs push city's liability to new heights of $129.7 million

by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Online Staff

Palo Alto's quest to reduce its ballooning retiree medical liability jumped forward Monday night when the City Council agreed to boost this year's contribution to retirees' health benefits by $1.4 million.

The vote came days after staff released an actuarial report pegging the city's medical liability at $129.7 million, a $27.5 million increase from two years ago.

The new study, compiled by the Seattle-based firm Milliman, Inc., attributes the mounting liability to rising health-care premiums, the rising costs of benefit accruals and the unusually high number of recent retirees in Palo Alto.

The council voted 7-0, with Yoriko Kishimoto and John Barton absent, to approve a staff request to pull $688,038 out of various reserve funds to meet the city's annual required contribution.


City Manager James Keene is also expected to come back to the council at the end of the current fiscal year -- June 30, 2010 -- to recommend further transfers from the general fund.

The discussion of medical costs occurred shortly after the council spent nearly three hours in a closed-door session -- most of which was spent in negotiations with various labor groups. Members of Palo Alto's largest labor union, the Service Employees International Union, have consistently resisted salary and benefit reductions proposed by the city and Monday's meeting failed to settle the dispute.

Several spoke to the council early in the evening.

Councilman Pat Burt said he wished the SEIU workers who voiced their discontent about salary negotiations had stayed to hear about the city's unfunded liability. The actuarial report attributed 48 percent of the increase in the city's liability -- or about $13.3 million -- directly to SEIU retirees.

"I'm disappointed they left before his presentation," Burt said. "This is part of the reality that we are facing and that the community is facing."

Meanwhile, a wave of recent retirements is expected to increase the city's liability even further. City proposals to reduce benefits have prompted dozens of SEIU workers to retire in recent months. Union leaders attribute the high retirement rate to the workers' uncertainty over future pension and health-care coverage.

The actuarial report stated that the number of city retirees between 2007 and 2009 was more than double what an earlier study projected. The study estimated that 55 workers would retire during that span, while 115 actually retired.

David Ramberg, assistant director of administrative services, said the city is on a plan to pay off its retiree medical liability in 30 years. The current budget initially allocated a $8.4 million contribution, but the council Monday night raised the city's contribution to $9.8 million in fiscal year 2010.

Palo Alto also established a trust in 2007 for medical-retiree payments and transferred $33.8 million into the trust, which is administered by the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). The value of the trust has since tumbled to $24.6 million, leaving the city's unfunded liability at $105.1 million.

Keene said closing the city's liability would prove a major challenge in the coming years. The city was facing a $10 million gap in the 2010 budget even before the actuarial report. Now, Keene will have to find another $735,286 in the general fund to pay the city's required contribution.

"In some sense, we've gone backward due to losses in portfolio, changing demographics and rising health-care costs," Keene told the council. "While we have a plan, we'll have to find a way to fund it over time."

The council meeting was adjourned shortly before 1 a.m. in honor of John Barton, Sr., who died earlier Monday from injuries sustained in a bike accident last month. Barton's son, Councilman John Barton, was absent from Monday's meeting.

Find this article at:
http://www.PaloAltoOnline.com/news/story.php?story_id=13301

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