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Public Pensions - Problem Continues to Grow

Original post made by Awakening on Feb 28, 2011

More perspectives on the reality of our significant public employee pension issue. Pleasanton is faced with the exact same issue. The only thing that is saving us right now is that our revenue hasn't dropped as much.

But we are paying a price for our rapidly increasing pension costs. Look around – have you ever seen so many pot holes in Pleasanton?

The Clock is Ticking on Bloated Pensions

Web Link

"Union leaders need to pay attention. Yet so far, they appear tone deaf. They continue to roll out the old misleading statistic that public employee retirements average "$24,000 a year." Average is meaningless in this debate. Look at pension payouts for those who retired after a full career and after the big post-1999 pension enhancements were approved. Look at public-safety retirements across the board and some local governments that adopted pension formulas that outstrip even very generous state formulas."

Day of Reckoning on Pensions

Web Link

"The Little Hoover Commission paints a bleak picture of what's ahead for state and local governments in California."

Comments (79)

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 28, 2011 at 9:05 am

Stacey is a registered user.

The California Teacher's Retirement System has it worse than CalPERS because they can't set contribution rates like CalPERS can. So here's what's been happening: Web Link Teachers pay 8% into their pension. How much does PUSD pay in? What's their unfunded liability? Good question to go ask...


Posted by More, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2011 at 9:20 am

"In another five years, when pension contributions from government are expected to jump 40 to 80 percent and remain at those levels for decades in order to keep retirement plans solvent, there will be no debate about the magnitude of the problem.

"Barring a miraculous market advance and sustained economic expansion, no government entity — especially at the local level — will be able to absorb the blow without severe cuts to services."

Web Link


Posted by reform it now, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Feb 28, 2011 at 9:20 am

The first thing to do is change the payout calculation to 2% at age 65 and make it an average of the final 3 years.
The next thing to do is require the full 8% contribution from the employees.
Mr. Fialho and city council -- are you listening?


Posted by curious, a resident of Dublin
on Feb 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

Why is the payout calculation an average of the final years? This is the time when pay is at it's highest. Why not an average of all years of service? Is it an assumption that money paid in earlier years has had time to compound and thus make it equivalent to the average of the final years?

Just curious.


Posted by Criminal, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2011 at 11:40 am

First, thanks for that 'elementary' pension cartoon...pretty much tells the story !!...Next, I wish reporters, newscasters, and everybody would not lump all unions and people together. There is zero reason outsiders like private plumbers and cooks would be showing up in Wis. PUBLIC and private unions are not interchangable, but as different as day and night ! Companies can close. Taxpayers are HOSTAGES,even when UNemployed themselves !
Pres Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) a champion of unionism and other socialist concepts in the private sector, OPPOSED COLLECTIVE BARGAINING for PUBLIC employees. His quote " Meticulous attention should be paid to the SPECIAL relations and OBLIGATIONS of PUBLIC servants to the public itself and to the government...The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, CANNOT be transplanted into PUBLIC service"".
It is tragic for our golden state that kid Gov Moonbeam Brown signed to unionize CA state employees. It is appropriate and essential that he FIX his mess. He cannot allow this tragedy to fester and worsen,...his duty is to the PEOPLE of CA. (unlike our mayor who mistakenly thinks her duty is to employees rather than the residents of Pleasanton). Any and All elected officials always take the same oath...of responsibility to the people). By giving the power to the unions, to make victims and hostages of resident taxpayers...against our individual will. Jerry must right this wrongs. Our employees retirement ages should be the norm of our residents and socail security and business guidelines. The retirement benefits should be in line of the national norms for 401k practices, i.e. employees make own contributions.(i'm retired, pay $200 senior prem, plus $30. each time I say HI to anybody at Kaiser). Any public employee that wants to retire earlier than the norm may do so, with no payout, retirement in suspense, or appropriately REDUCED by each year of premature absence.
It's time to get serious.. The abuse is mounting, and unfair and inhumane to leave such a mess for our children....they will all leave the state...CA will suffer from this sucidal stupidity.


Posted by Criminal, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Stacy, I see you posted that great cartoon web link in the first of the pension comments above. Is there any way you can OPEN it and post it open ....so that speed readers won't zoom by missing the very best cartoon I've ever seen on this topic.
I saw it over the weekend in the CoCo Times and Herald. The Times & Herald, also saw editorial reporter Daniel Borenstein;s article "Report right about need for pension change ", explaining the Little Hoover Report recommendations, and the reasons why we must implement them in order to save the state of CA.


Posted by woody, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I'm with you Criminal. Actually, there is every reason why private unions and public unions are standing in solidarity in Wisconsin and all across the country. They both have benefitted from collective bargaining rights, they both have ensured against arbitrary dismissals, demotions and firings, they both are largely responsible for moving working-class people into the middle class. Also, public and private unions are similar in another respect: if businesses don't want to pay their workers a fair wage, they can move overseas, which many of them have done; if taxpayers don't want to pay their teachers a fair salary, there is nothing to prevent them from moving to another district or state. Hey, sounds like you'd like to live in Mississipp there good ol' buddy. Or Texas, which has very very few public unions but is in a financial mess not unlike those states that have them. Go figure, eh? But I doubt you'd move. I don't move either. I feel better just scapegoating our teachers. It deflects from bigger problems, you know, ha-ha, like the distribution of wealth in this country. Save our children! No on Measure E. No on teacher raises. Larger classrooms are a must! Bust the unions -- they've been way too effective and it's time to put their members back in the 1920s where they belong. Let's raise the retirement age on them. Let's lower the insane minimum age requirement, which will bring in more revenue for the state. If more kids were allowed to work full-time, we'd have less kids to pay for in the classroom. Then who'd the teachers teach? Great post, Stace. And remember, we're all about the kids.


Posted by Sandy, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Stacey, I believe the PUSD contribution to CalSTRS is 8.25% of salary.


Posted by Criminal, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Obviously, woody you, I'll politely say "distort". public and private can never be the same ....they have very different employers ! !...with very different abilities to raise funds !
Why are you here if you don't value personal freedom ? Though most have crumbled under their own weight, you could find some places where equalized sharing (albiet) all equally lower sharing would be available to you. INDIVIDUAL freedom is something that has been taken from me. PUBLIC unions have turned me into a victim hostage situation that I cannot free myself from. Private unions do not do that to me...I have the right to not choose to do business with them.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Sandy, I think that is correct, but if legislation Stacey has mentioned passes to up the district contribution to 14% as they are planning with PERS, I dont believe there is a trigger to up the employ contribution--STRS or PERS. So you could be adding roughly 6% in contributions for every employee. That ought to leave a dent in future budgets.


Posted by woody, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Well argued, Criminal!
You're a free individual. We'll cry together about our victimization -- boo-hoo, my community wants to raise a parcel tax. Maybe we should move to Texas or Mississipp. Right to work laws are what we need for public employees. Let them earn less than minimum wage, cuz employers should be free to exploit their workers in whatever way, shape or form they choose. Your freedom stops at your own victimhood. You're free to not buy a union-made product -- good for you, that's showing 'em. You're not free to leave this wonderful state? How come? Have the public unions so shackled you that you're restricted from exercising your freedom of movement? Aw, heck, sorry for pointing that out. That's just a contradiction (shhhh) we're willing to live with right. Now, let's get back to the task of criticizing public employees. That's easier to do than thinking through our responsibilities to one another as citizens.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Contributions for CalSTRS comes from three places: employee, employer, and the State. It's different than CalPERS in that way. The problem with CalSTRS is just that contributions from all three sources have been too low given promised benefits. Teachers have been paying their share. The other two, not so much. They aren't covering normal costs, basically. Normal costs have to be funded every year, no exceptions. So it's made worse with increases in benefits, hence the cartoon.

(And that isn't even getting into OPEB funding, which has been pay-as-you-go. PUSD deferred the payment last year too, iirc.)


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2011 at 7:43 pm

PUSD deferred the payment on OPEB every year; not just last year. The district has never contributed to it. It was only a few years ago that agencies had to report this liability by law. Until then it was not even listed as a liability on the books; the district essentially hid this liability.

This is another unsustainable practice. You should not give out a benefit that you cannot pay for. We owe around $12M on this liability right now. If you look at the latest district books you will see the liability around $12M and the unfunded part of this liability being the same number. It is 100% unfunded. And they still give out this benefit to retirees; health care insurance paid for up to 7 years are you retire; 100% paid for by the district. There is no cap on the insurance amount either.


Posted by Robert Byrd, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 28, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Please read the Little Hoover Commission's report:
Web Link

which details how the "pension" system in California originally designed to supplement Social Security and personal savings at at retirement at age 65 to prevent poverty, has instead become a "wealth transfer" system for public employees to retire at age 50 or age 55 and collect escalating pensions for 30+ years.

Reform is needed at both the State and Local levels.

Pleasanton City Employees need to pay their full 8% share; plus reduce the 2.7% at age 55 retirement formula to 2% at age 60.


Posted by Awakening, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 8:25 am

Time for taxpayers to take a seat at the negotiation table:

Web Link


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

Yes, let's force these hard-working middle class people to take massive pay/benefit cuts so that Bart, Kay and all the others living in big homes in the foothills can enjoy more tax breaks.

This "crisis" has been fabricated by your local TEA Party, and will be a distant memory in 2-3 years, courtesy of the recovering economy and investment markets, combined with the contribution rate increases that have already taken place.

Move along. Nothing to see here.


Posted by bbb, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:09 am

b - You are making yourself look like a complete fool. Do yourself a favor and read the Little Hoover report which was written by a bi-partisan group.

You were probably one of the clueless who claimed there wasn't an issue in 2004 or 2007.


Posted by SteveP, a resident of Parkside
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:13 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Woody, as usual, misses (or skirts) the issue altogether.
Suggesting we move out of state rather than staying in your home and fighting the public entitlement mentality? Really? That's your solution to the pension fiasco?
Woody, will you move once you lose you bargaining 'rights' to continue pick-pocketing the taxpayers of this state? Just like lots od Dems said they would move to Canada when Bush was elected to a second term....lots of sound and fury and no action, eh, woodman?


Posted by SteveP, a resident of Parkside
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:22 am

SteveP is a registered user.

b-glad you're moving on. Moving out soon? (hopefully). You used so little imagination pasting the public union talking points: "hard-working middle class people to take massive pay/benefit cuts". Boohoo. Their world is about to come to an end. What a reality check for those who thought they could get by with their GED and make 6 figures for life just pushing a broom. Not realistic here or in socialist countries, as they are now finding out. To our benefit, we can learn from their mistakes and take some austerity measures now to prevent further financial hardships at the expense of those have been living large at the expense of 'hard working middle class non-public workers'.



Move along. Nothing to see here.


Posted by b is a shill, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:23 am

b I'm not sure you can be an even bigger shill for the union than you already are.

You state in confidence that there will be no issue in 2-3 years so no need to take action now. Remember back in 1999-2002 when we were sold a load of xxx that the pension increases wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime? You and the unions have ZERO credibility on this front.

Funny you reference the contribution rate increases. Who is picking up the vast majority of these rate increases? The taxpayers.

SHILL!


Posted by voice of the unions, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 10:31 am

b is the voice for the unions.

I encourage him to keep posting. The more b writes, the more people who get incensed against the union. b is the poster child on the problem. He feels entitled to taxpayer money.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:06 am

The problem with your thinking is that you think in terms of "talking points" and "unions" instead of the real lives you are harming. I'm not inclined to seriously consider your viewpoint until you demonstrate a little human decency.

If the city were remotely in financial trouble, this might be an urgent matter. But that's not the case. This is merely a fabricated crisis, designed to benefit the most well off taxpayers by taking away from other people. I frame it that way, because those are the real winners and losers, no matter how you try to spin it for me

Yeah, I've read the reports, news articles, and your daily alarmist forum posts. Every one uses statistics from the worst points of the recession, and ignores what goes on in a normal economy.

You've used it all to get workers to give up money. Now it is time to give it a rest, and see how the combination of a recovering economy, increased contribution rates, and increased worker contributions start to turn the tide. If we need to adjust again, we can. But destroying people with 8% pay cuts is not a sustainable solution, either.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

b - you are hopeless but it is entertaining to spare with you. You put up a valiant effort but your ideas are simply bankrupt.

You and all the other progressives out there try to frame this as a class issue - rich vs. poor. All the while ignoring the underlying data that Pleasanton employees have captured much greater than their fair share over these past years as evidenced by the city's own data. Ignoring the fact that other parts of the city budget continues to be starved to pay for the inflated personnel costs.

Good thing there is a very small minority that believes as you do. And good news that the council realized that they couldn't in good faith defend the new contract to the public and therefore made the right decision to re-negotiate it.


Posted by Arnold, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:52 am

Stacey wrote: "The California Teacher's Retirement System has it worse than CalPERS because they can't set contribution rates like CalPERS can. So here's what's been happening: Web Link Teachers pay 8% into their pension. How much does PUSD pay in? What's their unfunded liability? Good question to go ask..."

Ed Mendel, who runs the Calpensions blog, wrote a recent article about some of CalSTRS issues. He writes about the effects lowering the expected rate of return will have on the cost of taxpayer contributions, the increased funding needed to recover from market losses, and the predictable vote on only lowering the assumed rate of return from 8% to 7.75%. The article is very informative. Here is one excerpt:

"In the fiscal year ending in June of last year, CalSTRS received $5.3 billion in contributions based on nearly 21 percent of teacher pay — 8 percent of pay from teachers, 8.25 percent of pay from districts and 4.5 percent from the state."

You can go to this link to see where things are headed: Web Link


Posted by long time parent, a resident of Birdland
on Mar 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Saw this today on the Capital Alert:

University of California Regent David Crane has joined the national debate over whether public employees should be unionized, drawing fire from Sen. Leland Yee, a longtime critic of UC management.

In an opinion piece published Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle, Web Link Crane argues that unions make more sense in the private sector, where "compensation and benefits are determined through negotiations conducted by unions representing employees and management representing shareholders."

"Neither side has influence over the other, and there is a healthy tension as each side works to increase its share of the pie," wrote the former Arnold Schwarzenegger adviser, who has been a vocal advocate for changing the state's public employee pension system.

"But in the public sector," Crane wrote in the Chronicle, "no such healthy tension exists because unions can use campaign contributions to gain control of 'management,' which in California's state government means the 120 legislators and the governor who together determine employee compensation and benefits."

IT is SO right.


Posted by Parakeet, a resident of Birdland
on Mar 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Yup, that's one of the advantages of being in a union, private or public. Until recently, the private unions were lambasted by the rich for having undue influence because of protective labor laws, passed by politicians, who, so the lie goes, are unduly influenced by union grass roots mobilization efforts.

But now lambasting public unions is the new rage. They have influence, too. They can use their money to get the politicians they want into office. Now, forgetting for the moment that the richies have more than their fair share of campaign wealth to throw around, we do know how influential big bucks is in california elections, right? Just look at Meg and Carly. By how much did they outspend the unions I wonder? Crane is little more than a doofus waterboy for Schwartzenegger.

The wealthy have no shortage of waterboys to do their bidding. All this hoopla is a cynical attempt to bust unions, nothing more, nothing less.


Posted by Think for yourself, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Parakeet - how about not parroting that same old tired progressive dogma and doing some investigation and thinking for yourself.

No one is talking about union busting here in Pleasanton. What we are fighting for is a more equitable and health distribution of limited city funds. Personnel costs have increased from 63% to 80% thereby starving the rest of the budget. If this continues, Pleasanton will be the worse for it.

The Mayor, City Council and City Management have acknowledged the issue. But blinded-by-dogma people like you refuse to see reality no matter what data is placed in front of you. It seems everything is class warfare for you.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Use whatever fancy words you like to describe it.

Your proposal takes real-world, today, gonna-affect-their-next-paychecks money out of the pockets of middle-class workers, based on your *guess* about what's going to happen to the economy, investment returns and tax revenues at some future time. As a result, Real People get hurt and well-off tax payers benefit.

Call it class warfare or whatever else makes you feel important. I know lots of very well-off people who disagree with your proposal and have no desire to hurt our hard-working employees. I also know a few middle-class people who have been brainwashed by the TEA Party into believing they're saving the world by destroying the lives of those evil public employees.


Posted by Get real, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 8:48 pm

If employees don't want to take a "pay cut" to fund their own retirement ("pay cut being a huge misnomer - I don't consider a 401K contribution a pay cut), then they should consider relaxing their retirement formula. It is one, or the other.


Posted by Robert Byrd, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:09 pm

The bi-partisan fact-based Little Hoover Commission Report advises that local agencies, like Los Angeles County, will soon be spending 1 out of every 3 dollars in 2015 on pension costs.

This will impact services that can be provided at libraries, fire fighter and police response, street maintenance, park maintenance, etc.

Pleasanton's situation is not as dire as LA, but the projected costs are escalating, as the City's required payments to CalPERS are projected to increase 20%+ and stay at those inflated rates for decades.

Employees paying their 8% is a minimum. The City will still be paying 20%+ of each employees' salary to CalPERS each year for decades.

Pensions also need to be based on average of 5 years salary, not just highest 12 months.

Pensions only calculated on base salary, not including unused vacation, sick, or other "spiking".

2% at 60 minimum formula; even better is 2% at 65. (Social Security is 65 or 67 - why can't public employees working desk jobs do the same?)


Posted by Yet Another Teacher, a resident of Hart Middle School
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm

More Republican scaremongering tactics. What, did they run out of "terr'ists" to scare us already?

Sorry to be the black fly in your tea pot, partiers, but first:

Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions (from The New York Times):

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Web Link

And the "crisis" is largely the fevered imagination of right-wing anti-union ideologues:

The imaginary public sector pension fund crisis (from Salon Magazine):

[I]t is worth noting that the size of the shortfall in many of these funds has likely already been reduced as a result of the fact that the stock market has continued to recover from its downturn in 2008 and 2009. On July 1, 2010, the S&P 500 was already more than 11 percent higher than its July 1, 2009 level (from 987 on July 1, 2009 to 1101 on July 1, 2010). Most funds use the stock market's closing value at the end of the fiscal year as the basis for determining the valuation of their assets. Of course they also use an average, so the valuation would not simply reflect the market value at the end of the fiscal year. However, with the market having already risen substantially from its low (the S&P 500 had risen another 19 percent to 1293 by January 10, 2011), it is likely that pension valuations based on current and future market levels will show smaller shortfalls. In other words, a substantial portion of the shortfalls that were reported based on 2009 valuations have likely already been eliminated by the rise in the market.

But yeah, don't let the facts get in the way of a lovely jihad.


Posted by Yet Another Teacher, a resident of Hart Middle School
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Forgot the Salon link:

Web Link


Posted by woody, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 9:14 pm

If public sector workers aren't willing to take a 'pay cut' in order to support their (deferred) salary, well then they should not hire themselves.

I should probably note that several studies show that 401k programs for public workers would cost taxpayers more than the current system, but that doesn't make it any less necessary, my objective way of seeing things.

Full disclosure: I run a retirement planning company which will only charge 40% off the top of any 401k contribution. What's fair is fair!


Posted by Get real, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 7:16 am

Hey b - I guess Brown is being alarmist here and blowing things out of proportion here.

Web Link

Brown to police: Pension curbs may be ahead


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 7:25 am

YAT - Your general topic, biased referenced articles have completely convinced me that we don't have a problem.

I will ignore the facts that the city has presented that pension costs continue to grow and crowd out the rest of the budget.

I will ignore the fact that our unfunded liability continues to grow (even with the improved market returns) and that it will be future generations that will pay this dept off while not having the retirement safety net that current employees have.

I will ignore the fact that 15 out of 16 CA pension reform bills passed last fall.

We don't have a problem - it is all made up by right-wing union hating people. Thanks for clearing things up for me.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 8:33 am

The city has also said that the state of our finances is very healthy, the pension problem is diminishing as tax revenues and investment returns rise, and that we shouldn't pay any more to fund the current pension liability.

Classic TEA Party/Bart Hughes--selectively choose the convenient facts that fit your plans, and ignore the rest of the story, even when the rest of the facts and the story as a whole reach a completely different conclusion.


Posted by SteveP, a resident of Parkside
on Mar 2, 2011 at 8:40 am

SteveP is a registered user.

b-"I know lots of very well-off people who disagree with your proposal and have no desire to hurt our hard-working employees". Those would be your elitist, bleeding heart Dems in your small circle of friends? Bravo for them. Pray tell, how did they get to be so well off? Off the backs of those poor hard working middle class folks?
In the real world, budgets need to be balanced and it's time to reign in the costs of the over-compensated 'hard-working middle class folks" (I swear if I hear one more union stooge utter those exact talking points, I'm gonna hurl). They have been unfairly coddled for too long. It's time for reality check based on the effects of the current Obama recession.


Posted by Yet Another Teacher, a resident of Hart Middle School
on Mar 2, 2011 at 8:48 am

Translation: "The New York TIMES? Ain't that one of them lib'rul elite lamestream media papers Sarah Palin's always talkin' about? Yeah, it's just stuffed full of them facts and I ain't got no use for them. Now it's time to watch Glenn Beck!"

Notice that no one refutes the factual statements in the articles from The New York Times or Salon Magazine, the people who want to take away the union right to organize and punish public servants for the economic crisis created by the Wall Street thieves just keep beating that dream.

Problem is, outside of the Tea Party meetings, nobody's listening to your music. As the utter futility of the Tea Party's jihad becomes more and more apparent even to these fact-"refudiating" folks, I expect their rhetoric to become ever more desperate, cynical, and overblown.

I'm still waiting for the Partiers to make the link between al-Qaeda, public employee unions, the Trilateral Commission, and the UFOs. Saving a big bag of popcorn for that show :D


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 8:52 am

b you said "and that we shouldn't pay any more to fund the current pension liability."

OK, then please help me understand Emily's presentation that shows annual costs increasing for the next few years. This is the city's own data, not mine.

I read this morning that Brown is even coming around to having to deal with this pension situation now. What is your take on that?


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 8:55 am

Let's stick to real-world math, not Tea Party math. Believe it or not, I even learned how to do this subtraction and multiplication thing in a public school.

If the city is paying an 8% employee contribution, but then says the employee must now pay it, that reduces their real-world, money-in-the bank paycheck by 8%. Since the city transferred the cost to the employee, it reduces that employee's total compensation (and thus cost to the city) by that same amount. In what world is that not a pay cut?

I've said all along that the employees should be paying the full 8% contribution. After all, that's why it is an employee contribution. Go ahead, look it up in the insanely long thread from a few weeks ago--I have not waivered from that position.

Where I disagree is in the speed with which that change should be implemented. This year's proposed 2% adjustment is a good start, and it should be continued in future contracts via salary freezes and additional, gradual adjustments.

Doing 8% (or even 4%) all at once will devestate some middle-class families that are already trying to scrape by--this is a very expensive place to live. There is absolutely no reason to do that to people, unless an agency is truly on the verge of bankruptcy otherwise. In Pleasanton, all evidence indicates that we can afford the contracts as-is--we're merely taking advantage of the tougher economics time to bargain better terms.

Still laughing at the "union shill" references. Go back and read what I posted a few weeks ago. No way the union supports what I want. I'm merely trying to protect the good people and families that serve us so well.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 9:03 am

YAT - no one is Pleasanton is pushing to remove collective bargaining rights from public employees so I'm not sure what you are arguing here.

But speaking of specific facts that get presented and the other side doesn't respond to ... what is your take on the fact (presented by the city) that personnel costs have increased from 63% of the budget to 80%, thereby crowding out the rest of the budget? How would you address this? (And no, Pleasanton is not able to raise revenue in a meaningful way.) What is your take on this specific point?


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 9:09 am

Again b, you made the statement "and that we shouldn't pay any more to fund the current pension liability".

It is the city's own numbers that says this isn't true, not mine. If you actually spent a little time investigating the situation, you'd learn for yourself that costs continue to rise because CalPERS contribution rates are increasing so dramatically.

And who are you accusing of manipulating numbers and misrepresenting the situation?


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 9:13 am

b - there is a simple fix here that won't require as large of a pay cut for employees. They should extend out there retirement ages and/or reduce retirement benefits as recommended by the Little Hoover report. This isn't any different than what is happening in the private sector and what is happening with Social Security.


Posted by s, a resident of Country Fair
on Mar 2, 2011 at 9:17 am

To b,
"The city has also said that the state of our finances is very healthy, the pension problem is diminishing as tax revenues and investment returns rise, " As we heard in Congress (?) previously, YOU LIE!

The pension problem will be diminishing once the Dow hits 25,000 as the original projects were when the pensions were greatly increased and raises given out. So b, please tell me when the Dow is expected to hit 25,000.

"If the city is paying an 8% employee contribution, but then says the employee must now pay it, that reduces their real-world, money-in-the bank paycheck by 8%. Since the city transferred the cost to the employee, it reduces that employee's total compensation (and thus cost to the city) by that same amount. In what world is that not a pay cut?"

When social security and medicare previously went up, this was not a pay cut to the "non-privileged class". The public employees received a fantastic bonus for some time; pay nothing into your pensions and get a guaranteed payout when you retire, starting at age 50.

B, you, the voice of the local union, are doing a lot to support the concept that public workers are a protected class and they deserve entitlements from the taxpayers. The more you speak here, the more I would like what is happening in Wisconsin to happen here. We need to get rid of union bosses like yourself who are robbing the taxpayers for your entitlements.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 9:54 am

YAT and b - your silence is deafening.

Interesting what happens when you are presented with simple, to the point questions focused on actually trying to expose the problem and find constructive solutions ...


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 10:28 am

Bart, because we've been through this many times, and I have better things to do with my day than to rehash the same points with you over and over.

Your scenario assumes that costs will rise indefinitely, with no benefit from the contribution rate increases or investment recovery that has already occurred, and that will continue to occur in this increasingly healthy and robust economy.

Your scenario is so utterly improbable (especially considering that much has already occurred and simply doesn't show up in the reported numbers yet) that it borders on fantasy.

Better get your initiative passed before the next set of numbers comes out.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 10:52 am

Right ... I guess you haven't heard that home prices are now in a double dip (Case Shiller). Where does Pleasanton get most of its revenue? Right, property tax.

Let's be neutral here for a moment and assume that revenue remains flat or increases slightly. The City Council has a goal to decrease personnel costs from 80% down to the 65-70% range. With CalPERS costs increasing (city's perspective and CalPERS' communications), how is this going to happen?

The city has already acknowledged that even with the proposed 2% employee contribution, retirement costs will continue to increase. This is why alternatives like adjusting retirement ages/benefits need to be considered (just like the Little Hoover report suggested).

I do have to hand it to you though - you have stuck by your beliefs regardless what facts are presented to you and as the vast majority of others have finally recognized the issue.


Posted by JS, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 11:00 am

"Let's be neutral here for a moment and assume that revenue remains flat or increases slightly."

That would be to err on the conservative side. It is likely to increase substantially. Just yesterday Warren Buffet said he expected the housing downturn to end this year. Communities like Pleasanton will recover much faster than others. There will be no long term problem. Simple stuff. At any rate, there is little you will be able to do to change things.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 11:08 am

Oh, I thought the housing downturn ended last year as so many pundits broadcasted ... ;-)

Great to hear that things are going to increase so dramatically and that we won't have a long-term problem. This must be just like when SB400 (the massive pension give-away) was sold on the point that it wouldn't cost taxpayers any extra and that the dow was going to 25,500. Let's just forget that inconvenient fact that the dow was at best flat during that time.

I guess Brown and most other leaders out there have it wrong that we have an issue with public employee retirement benefits.


Posted by JS, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 11:40 am

Brown is too much of a pessimist in his old age.

" it wouldn't cost taxpayers any extra and that the dow was going to 25,500"

If it weren't for all the naysayers and negativity in the press, we may never have had a housing problem. Probably a soft landing would have been the most likely scenario with prices returning to 5% annual increases after a couple years of flat. And if people will stop trying to talk the market down, I think we can expect the DOW to get to 30,000 within the next few years. It is easy to be negative. It is a lot harder to be positive. In fact, when I was in charge I used to say if you have to be negative all the time, you need to find another place to work. I no that is harsh, but sourpuss can spoil a whole company if nothing is done about it. Bottom line, Brown is wrong and so are the other "leaders" who refuse to positive.


Posted by Criminal, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 11:44 am

A must read article was in the 'Insight' section of Sunday's 2/27 www.sfchronicle.com ....titled "Should Public employees have collective bargaining". ..written by UC Regent David Crane, Dem, public policy lecturer at Stanford U. He explains how horrible PUBLIC union benefits are.
ALSO, EVEN BETTER, HEAR him explain & answer, do both and get many points.... go to www. KGORADIO.com, click PODCASTS, dropdown, HOURLY ARCHIVES, click WEDnesday, (today), then click the HOUR of show 10:00 - 11:00 wait the 10:00 news for 2-3 min, or drag right, but do not overshoot. Must hear the reading of a quote the very second the show (Ronn Owens) starts. Drag BACK if you overshoot the start of the quote and show. This Dem, UC REGENT and Stanford lecturer is against PUBLIC unions...great ! ! ! and great must have info.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

JS - I'm not sure whether/not to take you serious. We had a housing problem for two main reasons 1) Wall Street packaged up a bunch of garbage into CDO's and sold it as AAA bonds, and 2) people over-leveraged themselves with too much debt and then couldn't make the payments when interest rates went up. Very fundamental reasons that have nothing to do with having either a positive or negative attitude.

The only way the dow is going to 30,000 in the next couple of years if if Bernake is able to do QE3, 4, 5 ... (this will be a form of inflation). That is not going to happen and all credible financial professionals will agree. Simply, the markets won't let him. Rates will sky rocket before and will force his hand. Look now at all inflation issues being created with QE2 - dollar dropping, middle east conflict, etc. Even today with Bernanke's talk to congress, he is signaling that not much more quantitative easing is coming and that the US must get its fiscal house in order now.

I agree it is better to be positive than negative. In addition, one needs to see reality.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Of course a UC Regent is going to be against unions. He is on the other side of the negotiating table! I'm sure Ron Owens provided his standard impartial analysis. Ha!

Brown, et al are just pushing the popular sound bites.

This "crisis" did not exist a few years ago, and won't exist a few years from now. It exists temporarily because of an unusually deep recession, which is over. Exploit it while you can, conservatives. You'll look ridiculous once the numbers revert to the mean.

Double dip, give me a break. The Chicken Little crowd has been making that bold prediction for two years, and it never comes true. Economy is growing healthier every day. Recruiters i know can't fill jobs. I can barely keep up with all the new business coming in. Homes in my neighborhood stay on the market about a week. But any minute now! That sky is really going to come crashing down on us! Bwahaha.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Web Link

Home prices edge toward double dip

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index shows a 2.4% decrease in December from the same month in 2009 and 1% from November, the fifth straight month of declines.

Even though Case Shiller is the definitive view on housing prices, I'm sure b you will find a way to discount is as being biased, mis-leading, etc.


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm

No, it isn't biased. I've just had conservatives throwing this kind of stuff in my face for two years, saying "see, see, see." I don't understand why you and others search so desperately for evidence of a double-dip.

There have been many "warning signs" prior to this one. But reality has simply played out differently. I became an optimist a little over a year ago, and it has served me very well.


Posted by Criminal, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm

b, your inability to be logical is always amazing. The crisis of UNsustainable pension payouts has existed since the day Davis mad CA PUBLIC penions UNststainable ! Just because you weren't aware,k means little....you STILL DON'T GET IT !!.
Let me make it easy for you...... while the termites are crumbling away the foundation of your house...and you are totally unaware and clueless to that fact for years, doesn't mean that your house isn't crumbling ! !
Many are too blind to see, others are afraid to look.


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 1:07 pm

It took all of 2 seconds to google the topic to come up with many headlines. I chose the LA Times one especially for you given their liberal bias in general. The reality is housing prices are likely coming down further before they go back up and this in fact is natural and healthy thing. It will make housing more affordable to new owners.

I've been a realist and an optimist my entire life and it has served me extremely well, especially during this past recession. Facts are facts and better decisions are made once you accept reality.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 2, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

YAT wrote: "I'm still waiting for the Partiers to make the link between al-Qaeda, public employee unions, the Trilateral Commission, and the UFOs. Saving a big bag of popcorn for that show :D"

Read that story already. It's called "The Illuminatus Trilogy" by Robert Anton Wilson. Good reading!


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 2, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

b wrote something about: "Where I disagree is in the speed with which that change should be implemented. This year's proposed 2% adjustment is a good start, and it should be continued in future contracts via salary freezes and additional, gradual adjustments."

Well, we agree on the whole speed thing. I'm not sure I would have favored the method/strategy being used by the City, but there you have it. We know that PCEA was willing to do 2% for two years (it didn't look like 2% this year then 4% next year). But what do the numbers look like if say, we went immediately to 8% in one year and gave a 6% one-time raise? The effect would be a 2% cut in take-home pay and employee would be paying the full 8%. The only thing I see is that, when the City pays the employees share that amount becomes "PERSable". So a one-time 6% raise means we've reduced the PERSable amount by 2% for all future years. I wonder what the numbers look like then. Maybe it is not enough?


Posted by Bart Hughes, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Stacey - your approach wouldn't help that much as the 8% the city contributes on behalf is already PERSable. Also, the city can't afford any more raises of that magnitude until revenue starts to increase again on a sustained basis. Personnel costs already take up 80% of the general fund. This is starting to impact maintenance of the city. E.g., I've lived here 12 years and have never seen our roads in such poor shape. I am dodging pot holes all over town.

I agree asking for the full 8% is not feasible as it would put significant hardship on lower paid employees. This is why I am hoping the current negotiations are considering adjusting retirement ages and accrual percentages for go-forward services.


Posted by s, a resident of Birdland
on Mar 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm

b says, "This "crisis" did not exist a few years ago," BS

This started with Davis and was one of the main reasons he was recalled. In 2005 there was a lot of talk about the unsustainable pensions. This is not a new thing. It just keeps getting worse and worse, and the public is finally seeing how bad it is. And this is with most of it still hidden away in "smoothing" which hides the real problem. It is time for the protect class of public employee unions to go.


Posted by Yet Another Teacher, a resident of Hart Middle School
on Mar 2, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Sorry, Mr. Hughes, that I didn't respond in your timeframe. Seems you're a guy used to ordering people about? But I have a job (not retired as you are) and can't devote the time to the blogs that you and Stacey do.

I'll respond if/when I get time, capeece?


Posted by Steve is Right!!!, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Whoa! How'd ya like to work for Bart's firm? When he asks a question, you better respond or you know what. Better yet, imagine a firm with Bart at the helm, princess bean counter as head of personnel, and steve as public relations guy. Or, here's an idea, let's put all three of them on the school board.


Posted by Bart Hugehouse, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Indeed and verily, if I jargonify the feasibility of amortizing our inherent strategies, we can sustain montefractibility AND fungibility in our liabilities, both funded and unfunded.

Also, thanks for Googling that book, Stacey. When are you going to write a book of your own? I can suggest some titles if it'll help get you started: how about "All-knowing Rogue"? or "If I Did It (a fictional tale of a woman who logged out of P-town Weekly Forums)"?

C'mon, posters, pitch in with YOUR ideas!


Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 9:01 pm

We're all doomed.


Posted by Yet Another Teacher, a resident of Hart Middle School
on Mar 3, 2011 at 8:07 am

Yep, I felt like Hughes wanted me to salute him or something. My opinion of him is not printable in this forum.


Posted by no more teacher raises, a resident of Downtown
on Mar 3, 2011 at 8:48 am

Geez YAT, MY opinion of YOU has firmly committed me to vote no on E and any other measure that would give you a raise.
You think that you can throw around names and label us in order to refute our arguments against tenure and S & C. You may try to convince your students of your all-knowing abilities (although I would bet you expend little, if any, effort actually teaching them anything) but you are not even close to correctly labeling most of us.
I happen to be a Democrat, a lifetime union member and would not have much at all in common with the Tea Party. I also happen to be fed up with tenured teachers who are trash and need to be gone, teachers who feel entitled to raises -- at the cost of actual programs -- in this economic climate, and teachers who lament the cost of their health care. It has been posted that fewer than 30% of teachers pay for health care and that whole thing was negotiated by YOUR UNION in order to give the majority of the members a huge raise. Take it up with them, I don't care to hear it. You knew it when you accepted the job (you did read the contract, right?)
Teachers work a part time job and in Pleasanton they make far more than an average wage. My job is 24/7/365 and I needed more than 25 years of seniority to be able to get a summer or Christmas vacation. My union legislates for workplace safety, not lifetime guaranteed wages and pensions paid for by taxpayers. Don't like the job? Leave, you will not be missed.
I have posted it before -- I would pay ten times this parcel tax if S & C and tenure were terminated and teachers were paid and retained based on ability.


Posted by Steve is Right!!!, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2011 at 8:54 am

I'm a lifelong Democrat and union member. I'd pay 50 times the parcel tax if only they'd bust the teachers union. I was going to vote YES on E, but I don't like very much YAT. That's all the rationale I need. Let's put more kids into the classroom. The kids'll be alright, and they don't learn anything anyway!


Posted by Criminal, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2011 at 2:47 pm

actually, from my old elementary group class photos, apparently I always had 36-38 in my classes. I, nor my parents ever gave it a thought. A small Indiana town with 1 township high school and 2
elementary schools and I learned far more that most of today's kids off to college. Kids actually learn from each other. Small classes are for the teacher's (union), not for kids. I'm sort of talking about 3rd - 7th range. The learnig problems are really discipline problems..... "educators" starting with the hippies preached what they called "question authority"....speak up, stand up....WELL, they heard you, so they are !. At the same time, the same hippies forbid any discipline (my classes always had a paddle hanging over the blackboard, even tho I never saw or heard of one being used) so now, teachers lament being in danger....how sad they forever surrendered teacher's power, authority, discipline....everybody's loss. The start of the demise of education ALL in the same time frame, stopped discipline, encouraged defiant students, started PUBLIC teacher unions....and 35 years later, here we are ! ! ACADEMIA sure screwed things up bigtime....as they still are...now they're pretty much destroying college.


Posted by Dumbfounded, a resident of Birdland
on Mar 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Oh. My. God.


Posted by Not a Criminal, and Proud of It, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I admire you Criminal. Truly. I especially like the reference to the paddle being up on the wall. By your grammar -- "I, nor my parents..." -- it's obvious that you learned, like you say, "far more than most of today's kids off to college." Yes, I believe every word you say.

Your erudition is no doubt because the Hoosier teachers you had were good country folk, not like Pleasanton's "tenured teachers who are trash and who need to be gone" as mentioned above by your soulmate, 'no more teacher raises'.

I'm sure your reasoning is spot on. More discipline, less educating. After that "trash" that "needs to be gone" are indeed gone, you're the kind of guy I'd want teaching my kids. Thank you ever so kindly for permitting me to offer my humble opinion. Politely and deferentially yours.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Mar 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Not a criminal, why would you say, "tenured teachers who are trash and who need to be gone". I think most people respect our teachers and the work they are doing. It isn't about criticizing people. It is about budgets, budget constraints, policy, and rapidly increasing costs that are leading to diminishing educational services and programs.

I think you probably know that.


Posted by Not a Criminal and Proud of It, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Not my quote, pal, as clearly indicated by the quotation marks and reference to 'no more teacher raises' I think he's one of yours. Or he's you. Or whatever. But nice try! You show real prowess in your reading capacity. Sincerely.

I think you're right. Most people do think highly of their teachers. Take a look at Steve, Steve is Right, 'no more teacher raises' and the rest of the minority of voters who are pushing the NO agenda. You might learn something, though you'll need a strong stomach. Enough hmmmmm'n for you?


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Mar 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Not a criminal, you are absolutely correct; sorry about the misquote. We agree that most people respect the teachers and the work they are doing. I think what people are concerned about is what I alluded to in my previous post. It is about budgets, budget constraints, policy, and rapidly increasing costs that are leading to diminishing educational services and programs.

I guess some people get frustrated and allow things to get personal. Unfortunately, I doubt that will change and I hope we can all filter the static and listen to each others message.

Have a good afternoon!


Posted by Not a Criminal and Proud of It, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Don't know what you mean there, Hmmmmmer. I don't detect any static; nor do I agree with your apparently all-knowing assessment of the 'people' and what they want. I do think people who aren't able to stand the heat should get out of the fire. A steady daily, hourly barrage of NO! propaganda poorly disguised as civil discourse gets what it should in return. Like someone referenced on another post, the propaganda can be likened to lawn signs one hasn't asked for on one's lawn. Every morning they appear there like toadstools. But if you and the 2 or three other toadstools supporting NO on E want to propagandize the way you have, that's your right. Neither I nor anyone else is required to read yours or anyone else's post. That said, I urge you and others to read Steve, and Steve's Right!!!, and Criminal, and the dozen or so other monikers he uses as well as some of the other gassers on your side -- the NO side -- of the fence. Ridiculous ideas that are offensive to one's intellect and that are harmful to students and teachers need to be called what they are. We have to respect the right of posters to print such 'tripe' -- a descriptor used by Steve or Princess Bean Counter or Bart Hugehouse (assuming one or more of them are different people) -- but we don't have to respect infantile propaganda efforts or the posers behind them.


Posted by Criminal, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2011 at 6:33 pm

So 'Not a Criminal' although Pleasanton does not have life threatening situations in oiur classrooms, considering all the classroom horrors not that far away, I think it sad that you mock classroom discipline. The foul language I've heard from the junior prima donnas in Pleasanton make me wonder...why would any males ever want to be seen with them. Sows ears are pretty hard to change.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Mar 3, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Looking for the positive in your post - at least people know where you stand. I guess you consider yourself a realist? I think you're probably just polarizing the two sides which will make things more difficult. To each their own, I guess.

Let me ask you this, what is it you are trying to achieve?


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Mar 3, 2011 at 6:40 pm

The previous post was to "not a criminal"


Posted by Consensus seeker, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2011 at 1:03 am

Criminal. When you refer to 'oiur classrooms', was that something of a Freudian slip? Combining 'our' (as in your side) with 'oink'?

Princess says, Oh, please, I want so desperately to learn of your position!!! Take no heed of these toadstools in my back pocket.

@ Dumbfounded. Yeah, I know what you mean. The reference to the paddle on the wall reminds me of my Catholic upbringing with the guy plastered to the cross up on the wall. We were dumb to what they meant, but we knew they meant business.


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