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Pension Obligations Bankrupt Town

Original post made by resident, Downtown, on Dec 26, 2010

This is what can, and will, happen to Pleasanton if the council does not take action to reduce pension benefits NOW.
Web Link
I do not think that many posters on this forum have said that the workers should not be paid their current salaries. With the exception of some very highly paid city officials, most of our police, firemen and other city employees are paid well but fairly for their work. It is the obscene pension benefits that have to stop. Workers need to have a 401(k) system where they put in the full contribution and take out only what is there when they retire. The taxpayers can no longer afford the mindless excess that makes up the pension benefits today. We allow these people to retire as early as age 50 and then pay them what adds up to millions of dollars in retirement benefits. We allow them to spike their last year of earnings so that many retire on MORE money than they made while working. We allow public safety officers to scam a disability rating upon retirement and collect a lifetime of pension money TAXFREE.
Dear City Council -- enough is enough. Fix this problem and fix it now or face an initiative on the ballot.

Comments (32)

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Posted by winniehaha
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Alternative Heading for Pleasanton and other wealthy towns:
LACK OF SUFFICIENT TAX REVENUES THREATENS TO BANKRUPT TOWN.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2010 at 4:27 pm

The article states:

--------------

"the declining, little-known city of Prichard is now attracting the attention of bankruptcy lawyers, labor leaders, municipal credit analysts and local officials from across the country. They want to see if the situation in Prichard, like the continuing bankruptcy of Vallejo, Calif., ultimately creates a legal precedent on whether distressed cities can legally cut or reduce their pensions, and if so, how.
"Prichard is the future," said Michael Aguirre, the former San Diego city attorney, who has called for San Diego to declare bankruptcy and restructure its own outsize pension obligations. "We're all on the same conveyor belt. Prichard is just a little further down the road.""
------------

I like the idea of being able to cut or reduce pensions. I also like the idea of having a legal precedent to do so legally. Hopefully the attorney from San Diego will continue his work and maybe we will see some real change in California.

Unions need to understand that it is only a matter of time. The one good thing about this recession is that it made people realize that we can no longer continue business as usual.

And that goes to school districts too. They insist on giving raises to teachers knowing that the money will be less. We will see how long that lasts.


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Posted by mickey marcuse
a resident of Dublin
on Dec 26, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the article assumes a zero-sum game where it is pensions or nothing. Always blame the unions, always blame the teachers. We had a budget surplus in the country until Georgie W. gave tax cuts to the wealthy. Then the economy tanks and all the wealthy argue it wasn't THEIR fault, no, but rather the fault of state workers. Here the claim is closely related. Well, although the richies don't want you to consider this, there is more at work in a city's or state's or nation's budget than public workers' salaries and pensions. The richies want to deflect attention away from their ungodly hoards of wealth, and if that means taking down America's educational system in order to preserve such hoards, they couldn't care less. Just more dumb people to watch fox news.


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Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Dec 26, 2010 at 5:48 pm

The way I see it is fair is fair! If you don't like working Americans receiving benefits, then move back to where your ancestors came from. This is America and we don't need whiners like you fussing like screaming mimi's! And, I mean it!!!


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Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 2:01 am

To all:

The pension and healthcare unfunded liabilities are a tremendous issue in cities across the state. What these unfunded liabilities actually represent is a dollar cost for service that has already been consumed. In Pleasanton that dollar amount equates to close to 300 million dollars (NPV of accrued liabilities minus Market Value of Assets). The number is sure to grow higher when using the Calpers discount rate of 7.75%, and the expected reduction of that rate to 7.25-7.5% will inflate the unfunded liability further.

This is a huge issue that CalPERS is attempting to minimize, and Pleasanton is ignoring (hope I'm wrong). The council and Mayor seem to have acknowledged and dismissed the problem simultaneously. I know there are several people that are determined to make sure this doesn't happen. If the city council and staff want to continue to be viewed as professionals that are entrusted with the privilege of managing taxpayer funds they will address the pension issue head-on, acknowledge the fact that the huge state deficit is compounding and clouding the local problem, and plan a very conservative path going forward. I like to think the current management group will be conservative going forward. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I'm a realist that understands Labor groups are also a driving force in contract negotiations and their agenda isn't necessarily aligned with the taxpayer's best interests. To that argument I want to say Pleasanton employee groups have had an unprecedented 10 year run, raises every year of the recession, increased pension and healthcare benefits over the past decade, and lower retirement ages when the general population has seen the social security retirement eligible age increasing.

It is time taxpayers interests are placed front and center. Pushing the problem down the road by approving suspect contracts can only place this council/management group in the same high regard as cities like San Leandro, Hercules, San Ramon, Vallejo, and Antioch.

The unfunded Pension Liabilities can no longer be ignored by the members of management/council that say they represent the taxpayers. The Mayors stance, going back several years, leads me to believe that is exactly what is happening.


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Posted by steve
a resident of Parkside
on Dec 27, 2010 at 8:29 am

It's all George Bushes fault....LOL. Who knew, that almost 3 years out of office, he would have this kind of influence over local issues here in Pleasanton! Good thing Obama has been in office long enough now to correct this issue....oh wait...nevermind........Guess even a Dem majority can't buck the unions.....follow the money, mickey


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Posted by mickey marcuse
a resident of Dublin
on Dec 27, 2010 at 9:32 am

Yes, well, 'obscene pension benefits' and 'unfunded liability'? Nice try. What a joke. I propose that we begin with Republican workers and members of city council offering voluntary paybacks. We all know how liberal Republicans can be when it is a matter of separating themselves from their own money. (See, for example, the twisted 'arguments' about extending the tax cuts for the rich, despite its added burden on the deficit.) After that, since you Republicans want to start gouging away at social security, we might move on to the richies giving back all past and future social security checks. No, such won't happen. And why? Because those who want to suck the lifeblood from America's workers are all about maximizing their own self interests, and the public be damned. They'd rather forward the disingenuous casting of blame on workers than admit the obvious: that taxes on the rich need to be raised. Pensions have increased the past ten years? Let's consider that while keeping in mind the unconscionable disparity of wealth of the top 1-2% as compared to America's working middle class, and how the disparity seems to know no limits. And the rich want to suck more blood from teachers, fire fighters and police? Sick. Sick. Sick.

Poor steve seems to be mathematically challenged. It seems steve's willing to ride that fox news misinformation bus that wants viewers to believe that Obama was somehow responsible for the Bush administration aided and abetted economic debacle of 2008. Next he'll be telling us 9-1-1 occurred on Clinton's watch and that Obama is a Muslim.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 27, 2010 at 10:12 am

Throwing blame around will not solve this crisis. No matter if it is unions, Bush or the Easter bunny -- the time to stop these obscene pensions is now. Today. This contract. The current city council does not accept that and will not even reply to email asking for their position. The mayor is arrogant and, IMHO, absolutely incompetent to be able to resolve this issue.
We are heading down the path of an initiative. Never the first choice of how to resolve issues like this. However, if any Pleasanton worker thinks that the taxpayers are obligated to continue this fiscal folly they will soon find that they are wrong. Making more than a fair wage, with raises during a recession, is a gift. Ripping off the taxpayers for a lifetime pension, to which they made no contributions, is grand theft. Time for that to stop.


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Posted by zeke
a resident of Danville
on Dec 27, 2010 at 11:37 am

The above resident must think we all believe in the Easter Bunny. 'Ripping off taxpayers'? 'Making more than a fair wage'? 'Grand theft'? Such claims make me sick to my stomach.


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Posted by two cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I think an important comparison is middle class public sector and middle class private sector. The public sector retires 10-15 years earlier with huge pensions that they contribute little if anything to and great health benefits. And don't say the salaries are lower -that isn't true anymore. These generous salaries, pensions, vacation days, sick days etc are being paid for by the middle class private sector who do not have a safety net and are getting nowhere close to the same benefits.


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Posted by Bart Hughes
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Excellent points Two Cents.

Why is it so difficult to have a fact based discussion without reverting to dogma-laced name calling? We have serious issues to solve as a community, so I hope we can get past all these antics and get on to problem solving.

The current entitlement program was a fiscal mistake as now admitted by nearly all except those who are benefiting from the mistake. The longer we wait to address the issue, the more difficult the inevitable change will be.

Pleasanton currently has approximately $290M (MVA) of unfunded liabilities. Think about this for a minute - this is nearly twice our annual budget. This obligation continues to eat up more and more of our budget thereby reducing city services.

Unfortunately, city employees (those who have benefited hugely from this mistake) have contributed next to nothing to help solve the issue. And their unions have and continue to fight to go slow to fix the problem.

We will see on 1/18 (date has been pushed back by two weeks) whether the City Council is able to find the courage to start to significantly address this mistake. It continues to amaze me how the public has to make such a big deal of this to get things moving. This is an obvious issue that should have been addressed long ago.


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Posted by two cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 1:40 pm

It's all getting very interesting isn't it?

I was just reading in the paper about how Jerry Brown might try to sell a tax increase to the public by promising more of the revenue will flow to local governments to "help local governments finance increased responsibililties."

But this whole pension situation has made me think - how qualified are local government officials (anywhere) to spend our money? Do they really pay attention to finances, do they have financial training or expertise - if so, how could they have allowed the current pension situation to develop? And now that it's clearly a major issue affecting how our tax money is spent, what are they doing to correct the situation? Do local government leaders have the strength, the negotiating ability, and the independence to do anything to fix things? How could they allow general fund spending on pensions to get so out of control in only 8 years? Would they be any better with money for schools or anything else?

At first glance, you'd think that sending money to be spent at a local level would be a good idea because local leaders should know what we want / need funds to be spent on, but is this really true? It will be interesting to see in the next couple of weeks how our local govenment makes their decisions on the pension issue, because it may be an indicator of whether voting for taxes to flow locally is really a good idea. And I'm speaking as a democrat turned reluctantly republican, I guess I'm mostly an independent worried about the future.


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Posted by two cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Web Link

And here is another article, "In Michigan, a City Pleads for Bankruptcy Option".


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2010 at 7:57 pm

The pensions and pubic employees/retirees are a problem across the nation:

"While most states that overhauled pensions trimmed benefits for future hires, Minnesota, Colorado and South Dakota passed legislation that trimmed cost of living adjustments for current recipients."

Web Link

Eventually, something will have to be done, you cannot continue to spend money you do not have. I agree with the comment above about how the private sector middle class is getting squeezed because not only are we having to save for our retirement, but we have to finance all those retirees through our taxes.


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Posted by steve
a resident of Parkside
on Dec 28, 2010 at 8:23 am

mickey, you can't have the last drive by comment. Your messiah and the Dems have been in the majority for more than two years and yet what positive changes have they made to either the federal or local economies? It's all Bushes fault as much as it's Clinton's fault he didn't go after Obama Bin Laden when he had the chance after the first WTC bombing (since you brought it up).
Look no further than the likes of Barney Fwank for your housing-bubble caused recession, requiring banks to loan to low lifes who had no could niot qualify for loans otherwise.
No amount of your hateful class envy will correct the Obama recession.


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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I sent copies of this article to the mayor and councilmen. We are headed down the same path. If we do not heed these warnings and cut the pensions and medical benefits and make the employees pay their fair share we are all incredibly stupid. Come to the Jan. 18th meeting and make your voices heard.

Happy New Year


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Posted by Max
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Yes, Pleasanton is one of the wealthiest towns in United States, yet the conservative Republican types are wanting to play the role of Grinch with real workers' salaries and pensions. They put the real meaning into the term 'conservative'. "Conserve my (obscene) wealth, and if that means cutting back on the quality of your kids' education, then so be it. I will not part with another red nickel. I'm wealthy, stingy, and have worked hard to hold on to my mostly inherited riches."


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Posted by two cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Not everyone in Pleasanton is wealthy and it's not really the point. In fact the wealthier people I know here are the ones I've more often heard say "pay the public sector more". They are doing fine and can afford their retirement, medical expenses, private school etc if it comes to it.

People who are not wealthy are probably more upset by the salaries and pensions than those who are wealthy because they are the ones who are going to be working longer and harder without the same benefits. Children should be the most upset.


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Posted by Max
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 4:55 pm

No, two cents, despite what is suggested by many posters here who want to ignore the question, the point shouldn't be how to cut from the middle class worker's paycheck but rather how best to distribute wealth so as to improve the quality of living for all. As someone above suggested, it is not a zero sum game. There is more money available, and Pleasanton needs to devise ways of creatively drawing money from those who can afford to make the community better. If you are correct about many of Pleasanton's wealthy wanting to contribute more to the city's coffers, then this shouldn't be a big problem. I suspect you may not be correct. But in any case, shifting blame and burden upon public sector workers should not be the direction we desire to go.


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Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 30, 2010 at 5:42 pm

"No, two cents, despite what is suggested by many posters here who want to ignore the question, the point shouldn't be how to cut from the middle class worker's paycheck...."

That is exactly what is happening now. The city is redistrubiting money from a city populace with a median family income of 100K to individual employees with average adjusted compensation of over 100K. And as the CalPERS cost continue to escalate so does the value of the public sector employees total compensation. Quit just looking at the the W-2's and consider all the paid leave and rising pension costs (deferred compensation). The median family income has nothing on the average employee compensation.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 30, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Wage earnings of around and over $100k by public sector employees are looking like "wealth" to me given some rough median salary statistics for the state of CA. Web Link


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Posted by Patriot
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Hi Stacey,

The state doesn't hire many fruit pickers or hotel maids. You have to compare apples to apples.


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Posted by mickey marcuse
a resident of Dublin
on Dec 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Right you are, Patriot. Conservatives don't bother comparing public and private sector employees who have similar educational backgrounds and expertise. More to the point, however: top 1% of household income is 225 times that of average household. The previous record (2004) was 190 times. (Source: Econ. Policy Institute.) Public sector employees have improved their lives thru unionizing efforts. Private sector employees over the decades have had their unions busted and decimated by the rich. Meanwhile, the rich manage to be largely invisible (out of the equation) when discussion arises as to city needs. Now the rich want to bust public sector unions and strip them of their hard-won gains.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

So much for all those janitors, park maintenance crews, and even lifeguards. They don't stand up to your criteria. But what does that have to do with considering public employees who make over $100K as wealthy?


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Posted by Not so Sure
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2011 at 1:20 am

The "rich" aren't really rich if you compute that they will have to fund their own retirement from age 50 to age 80+....

But we somehow consider public employees as being firmly middle class and righteous when they collect 100k+ a year for 30+ years on a pension that was fully funded by their fellow citizens...and they often take another job after their "retirement".

HA.

Let's get real about this.



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Posted by John
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2011 at 7:10 pm

The "rich" aren't really rich - that has got to be the best line I've heard yet!

So you're telling me the 6 plus plus figure my brother has had over the last 20 years in his private sector job, not counting the bonuses, matched 401ks, the car, the expense account...I could go on, is less than the 80,000 I have worked my way up to over the last 20 yrs with NO PERKS? We are both tax payers, we both contribute to our retirement monthly, (although the new faux mantra is we dont) We have matching levels of degrees- his company paid for his schooling, I paid for my own. He's retiring at 55, I'll be working until 65.

What a joke this attack on those who have served the community is getting to be. I certainly don't remember the attack on the private sector as the imbalance was tipped the other way for the past twenty years! The "all about me" attitude is very apparent, and a real concern I have for our community.

I have to say, and he has agreed with me on this one, I chose a profession that was much more personally gratifying than he did. My job "gave back" to our community, his enhanced corporate wealth.


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Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Hey John

I don't have to pay for the products or services of your brothers company. I, unfortunately, am stuck paying for city services without an alternative supplier. That makes city services my only option, a monopoly if you will, and a very good reason for the highest level of scrutiny. If you don't like it go work with your brother.

"The "all about me" attitude is very apparent" - yes it is John.


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Posted by Patriot
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2011 at 10:45 pm

"The "rich" aren't really rich if you compute that they will have to fund their own retirement from age 50 to age 80+"

Yes they are. Do the math. The top 1% of retirees could easily afford to buy annuities that far exceed the value of the retirement benefits of public sector employees.


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Posted by two cents
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2011 at 11:58 pm

But why are you comparing the public sector with the top 1%? I want to represent those who make under 100k in the private sector, who are really getting hammered by the excess - of bankers and public sector.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 2, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

John wrote: "I certainly don't remember the attack on the private sector as the imbalance was tipped the other way for the past twenty years!"

I'm not sure what John really meant by writing this. I'd only like to point out that the idea of there being some balance between the public sector and the private sector ignores the relationship between the two sectors. The private sector pays for the public sector. If the public sector costs more than the private sector can afford, it has to get cut. The only balance that can be had in terms of compensation is the ability of the public sector and the private sector to compete against each other in attracting and retaining individual talent. (Oftentimes the public sector only looks at itself in such competition and many rules are set up that do not allow the flexibility that the private sector has in this regard.) That has little to do with a society being able to afford the costs of its government.

Perhaps we shall see a rise in the private sector of a Blackwater-like industry that provides police and fire services at less cost to local governments (it used to be that the public sector could do this at less cost) if the public sector cannot get its act together in making business cycle adjustments that the private sector is better equipped to do. We already see it happening in education with the increase in charter schools, whether for good or bad.


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Posted by Jane Hull
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 3, 2011 at 10:57 pm

It should not be about private sector workers and public sectors workers cannibalizing one another while the wealthy look on. Michey's top 1% bringing in 225 X that of average household clearly does not reflect the top 1% working 225 X that of average working stiff -- public OR private. I think 'two cents' from another pleasanton neighborhood is being disingenuous. He/She doesn't want to represent workers in private sector making less than $100 grand per year; if he/she did, he or she would be organizing workers in order to have more power, safety, health and influence in the private firms that employ them. But instead, he/she wants to rob peter (public sector) in order to pay paul (private sector), while the owners of peter-paul go unscathed. This strikes me as disingenuous.


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Posted by I can count, can you?
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Jan 3, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Steve said, "Posted by steve, a resident of the Parkside neighborhood, on Dec 27, 2010 at 8:29 am

It's all George Bushes fault....LOL. Who knew, that almost 3 years out of office, he would have this kind of influence over local issues here in Pleasanton! Good thing Obama has been in office long enough now to correct this issue....oh wait...nevermind"

My "evil" union-paid high school teacher taught me that Dec. 2010 minus Jan. 2009 equals almost TWO years, not THREE, but what do those stOOpid union teachers know anyway? Oh, wait, it's all Obama's fault that Steve can't count, perhaps?


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