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Employee pension crisis endangers San Jose's future, mayor says

Original post made on Aug 24, 2011

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said Monday that his city is left with limited and difficult choices on how to manage and reduce pension liabilities for retired and current city workers.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 6:54 AM

Comments (24)

Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 24, 2011 at 9:18 am

Pleasanton is not far behind although San Jose is self-funded and does not use PERS for their retirees.
This problem would never have existed without the 3% at 50 plan for cops, firefighters and other public safety employees. At age 50 they retire with 3% of their final salary for every year worked. With 30 years of longevity they get 90% of their FINAL YEAR (spiked with vacation, unused sick leave, etc). That means they collect a pension of MORE MONEY than they ever earned while working and they get COLAs every year. In addition, they have free medical insurance for their families for life. The cops and firefighters in Pleasanton get this same benefit!
What will it take for the taxpayers who pay for this to change this law? Grey Davis rammed it down our throats without even a taxpayer vote. Now we need to do whatever it takes to roll it back.

2% at 60

no spiking

no paid medical benefits

reduce the pension paid dollar for dollar if any job is taken after retirement

Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2011 at 3:14 pm

"Pleasanton is not far behind although San Jose is self-funded and does not use PERS for their retirees."

We are much closer to having the same issues as San Jose than one might think. The biggest difference between SJ & Pleasanton is that the exploding Pension costs are recognized differently. San Jose manages their own pension fund and they, like most pension plans in the US, smooth gains & losses over a 3-5 year period (5 years for SJ). CalPers plans smooth some losses over a 15 year period and amortize others over 30 years (2008-09 market losses), which essentially extends payment terms for past service well beyond the years most employees will actually be working and contributing.

You can think of it this way. It's like buying a used car that statistically has 10 years of life and financing it for 30 years. Your payments will be low, just like Pleasanton's contribution rate to CalPers (if you consider 30-40% of payroll low - which is less than the 50% plus we would be paying using a 5 year smoothing plan like SJ), but you will eventually be paying for your cars use when the car has been retired (no-longer providing value to you).

Here is what one pension expert has to say about the CalPERS plan:

"How high will this flood crest? Local employers are now skeptical that they have been told the full truth about how high their pension costs will ultimately surge. Unlike the vast majority of public pension funds, CalPERS uses a 15-year actuarial smoothing process that camouflages the genuine economic impact of market fluctuations. I have no issue with normal industry-standard actuarial smoothing periods of 5 years, in light of the average length of a business cycle — which is 6 years based on 14 recession cycles in the past 84 years. But the CalPERS process is opaque and flunks the transparency test that taxpayers, public managers and municipal bond investors are entitled to expect. As I have explained before, such extraordinary "smoothing" practices deserve SEC investigation as an "artifice and device" to conceal relevant financial information from the investment community — as well as the employers who must now bear the financial brunt of unsustainable pension benefits."

Web Link

"This problem would never have existed without the 3% at 50 plan for cops, firefighters and other public safety employees. At age 50 they retire with 3% of their final salary for every year worked. With 30 years of longevity they get 90% of their FINAL YEAR..."

The safety plans are certainly the most taxpayer abusive but all plans have been increased post SB 400 (1999), which allowed for both increased benefits and the retroactive application of those increased benefits. If you were to research SB 400 you would be disgusted. The other issue is the lowering of retirement ages at the same time social security is requiring increased retirement ages. In 1997, Pleasanton lowered the retirement age for non-safety employees from 60 to 55. This in many ways was a double edged sword, especially in conjunction with SB 400, because it dramatically increased the cost of pension benefits while at the same time adding 5 years of payment obligations to retiree medical (instead of beginning at age 60 they now start receiving the benefit as early as age 55 - and, until recently, this benefit was given upon completion of 5 years of employment).

I will say that the city seems willing to include the citizenry in discussions regarding future contracts, even if some council members appear less than enthusiastic. It is a positive change from past practice and the Mayor & Council should be applauded for taking a big step toward transparency.

I appreciate it and I hope others will participate in the next council discussion on this topic.

Posted by Pete
a resident of Parkside
on Aug 24, 2011 at 3:40 pm

@'"It's hard to know who's right or who's wrong or who's responsible for what," Jones said.'

But that didn't stop Jones from stating that it's the fault of city workers. The city's residents don't want to pay more for basic services. So let's just all claim its the responsibility of city workers. Makes sense to me.

P.S. Regarding Ron Paul wannabe's: "Most of the other candidates who are angling for the support of the crazy wing of the crazy party have already signed the anti-abortion pledge, of course: Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Thaddeus McCotter, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Mitt Romney—whose own health care plan covers abortion—and Jon Huntsman, who is apparently seeking the support of the Nader wing of the crazy party, haven't signed it."

P.P.S. Paul also has expressed his doubts about evolutionary theory and scientific claims re. global warming. On these things, he is comprehensible.

Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Aug 24, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Another approach might be to establish a system whereby home towns pay college tuition in exchange for two or three years' work as municipal employees.

To wit, dismantle the career municipal employment structure and replace it with a modified version of military service.

Posted by Turnip
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 24, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Can't get blood from a turnip. Programs to dropouts, and unworthy, will have to be cut...just have to review some of the silliness that bleeds us. Some other social programs will have to be cut too,.could be painful for a while, but eventually the slow learners and deniers will grasp that there is cause and effect, and choices. . People will decide, reasonable benefits, excessive benefits, or social programs....voters decide, since apparently electeds have difficulty with that part of their jobs.

Posted by Shayne
a resident of Civic Square
on Aug 24, 2011 at 9:51 pm

@ Turniphead: "Programs to dropouts, and unworthy, will have to be cut."

Aside from the remarkable irony of the statement -- coming from an obvious dropout himself -- I wonder what you mean by "unworthy."

Elderly? Sick? Infirm? Disabled? Impoverished kids? Please be so kind as to tell us who belongs to this category, "unworthy."

Posted by Blossom
a resident of Stoneridge Orchards
on Aug 25, 2011 at 7:40 am

I think you know who Turnip means when he talks about the unworthy. I sure do.

Posted by Roberto
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2011 at 8:37 am

The other thing that would help their future is the State and Federal governments actually doing something to stop the flow of illegal aliens into California. San Jose for years had the distinction of having the lowest crime rate of the major cities in the U.S. No more. Every day now we read of the soaring crime rate in the Bay Area. Read the surnames of the perps. Before someone starts hollering "racist" or some other ugly epithet, get real (BTW, I am a Mexican-American). Rather its drunks running over people, thugs/gangs fighting and killing people at sporting events, Nortenos and Surenos gangs killing each other as well as innocent bystanders, robberies, burglaries, murders, assaults, there is a very ugly trend going on that won't get better by sticking our politically-correct heads in the sand. San Jose wouldn't be in such a financial bind with their police force if they weren't spending so much of their police money on crime committed by illegals. And, it's becoming a problem in P-Town.

Posted by Enricky
a resident of Foothill Farms
on Aug 25, 2011 at 8:49 am

Yes, c'mon let's get real. Crime log reads a spanish surname? It obviously must be an illegal immigrant, one of the world's worst unworthies. After all, why should San Jose cops and emergency crews have to pick up after an unworthy illegal gets hit by a car? What a waste of the valuable tax dollar. Just let 'em rot in the street as an example to all of what happens if you're an illegal unworthy. BTW, I'm half Mexican myself, but I figure if I pretend I'm all white by scapegoating immigrants that I'll feel better about myself.

Posted by Tough Love
a resident of Canyon Creek
on Aug 25, 2011 at 9:27 am

CalPERS extraordinary use of 15 and 30 year "smoothing" periods for gains/losses and especially amortization of the unfunded liability is inappropriate and without a justifiable basis.

To me it reflects how CalPERS has morphed from it's proper roll as Plan Administer and Investment Fiduciary to Participant-advocate for greater benefits (CLEARLY an improper roll). This is such because IF CalPERS used the standard industry practice of 5 years, it's bill to member cities would be (as it should be) considerably greater. This in turn would increase Taxpayer demands to reduce these excessively generous Plans ... something that CalPERS Board which is Participant/Labor controlled will do anything to prevent.

Taxpayers need to DEMAND change ... which if not forthcoming, they must respond to by refusing to further fund these Plans by whatever means necessary.

Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm

The issue of Pleasanton's unfunded liabilities doesn't limit the taxpayers exposure to just Pleasanton. This issue is impacting our city, the entire Tri-Valley, our school districts, Alameda County, and our local economy. Taxpayers have guaranteed that that these pension promises, including the 7.75 percent guaaranteed rate of return that we've (unknowingly in most cases) committed our own personal resources to, will be covered by taxpayer funds, or money we could be contributing to our own retirement accounts.

Here is an Editorial from the Orange County Register that explains the messege I'm trying to convey:

Editorial: O.C. cites face the $8.75 billion question
August 23, 2011|By ocregister

"Cities in Orange County are about to face the music for years of poor policy decisions, especially, spending irresponsibly on government employee salaries, benefits and lucrative pensions. The spending party is nearing an end, though, as revenue slips, forcing them to dip into reserve funds to try and cope with billions of dollars in unfunded retirement promises. It is time for some drastic measures.

Register Watchdog reporters found that the "unfunded portion of accrued pension and health care costs for Orange County and its cities" is now about $8.75 billion – these figures were bolstered by rising costs from retiring police officers and firefighters. Orange County cities are staring at an aggregate $4.1 billion unfunded pension and health care liability. County agencies have run up another $4.65 billion. Anaheim has the highest liability of any city – being $787 million short for its workers' pension and medical benefits; and Santa Ana is next, at $626 million."

Web Link

Posted by Turnip
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Shayne, unworthy can be anybody, any age, any race. Usually charities will assist a truly worthy neighbor, who has suffered thru no acts on their own. However,a person not providing for when they are older, a couple who breeds more than they can feed, clothe, or educate, a druggie, etc all have made choices. My American birthright of personal choices is the same as theirs...the land of individual choices.
We adjust by degrees. We have drifted so far off course, our founders would not recognize their creation. My government should not force me to share my paycheck with those who have made bad personal choices.. . it should be MY choice to do or not !

Posted by Yet Another Unworthy
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Old Turnip apparently has never had his head out of the sand. He apparently has never known or read about people whose substantial life savings were wiped out by an illness or unanticipated misfortune.

He apparently has never known or read about people who, attempting to raise a family on minimum wage, are unable to amass substantial life savings.

He apparently has never known or read about young, immature couples that have had children despite a lack of knowledge on how to raise them; nor has he ever known or read about children of such couples. (Old Turnip with his head in the sand, moreover, is probably against a woman's right to abortion.)

Old Turnip apparently doesn't know how drug addiction is frequently linked to one's genetic make-up, and is frequently termed by experts to be an illness, not a life choice.

Why doesn't Turnip know about these things? Because he's so pathetically bound up in his own miserable existence that he's never sat down and done some serious reading, he's never learned to empathize with others. This all adds up to a wretchedly small-minded individual who classifies people in terms of worthiness or unworthiness. On the right of the political spectrum. Hmph. Anybody surprised by this?

Posted by Turnip
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Same ol' YET, being wiped out by illness would NOT be of their choice ! Minimum wage, like all couples, responsibly breed according to your ability, try night school rather than more breeding.
Yes, youth might be allowed one 'mistake', then they learn what caused the mistake, after one they're called 'choices', not mistakes, and personal responsibility comes in to play.
You jump to lots of false conclusions, I am for all choices for all people, charities, taxes, breeding or notm etc,,,, choices and consequences.
Bi-polars are prone to self-medicate and need medical treatment, if not in that scope, drugs & alcohol would be called choices...some worthy, some not, like I said before.
You obviously have no limits and no standards, anybody can receive checks, set on automatic.

Posted by Shayne
a resident of Civic Square
on Aug 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Turnip's a really bright guy. He's got it all. He's well-educated, rich, and people really like him as a caring, empathetic kind of fellow. So why does he feel the need to inflict his hatred toward those "breeding" unworthyables? Well, somebody would first have to pull his head out of the soil to find out.

Let's punish the unworthy breeders by denying assistance to their children. That'll teach 'em, and we can use our hard-earned tax dollars to pay for prison expansion instead.

Posted by Turnip
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Condoms are cheaper than prisons. If the hypocritical catholics don't like the plan, let tham and their pope finance the choices.....
not the more responsible taxpayers.

Posted by Shayne
a resident of Civic Square
on Aug 25, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Ahhhhh, I see. Now we are to include Catholics among the unworthies.

And re. "Condoms are cheaper than prisons." I'm sure the distinction will not be lost on the children of the young irresponsible Catholic unworthies. "Mom, can I have a glass of orange juice?" "Sorry stevie, your deadbeat dad didn't use a condom, you were born, we don't have money, and the state is punishing us because we are unworthies. No condoms, no govt assistance for your nuitritional needs. Sorry kid. Condoms are cheaper than prisons."

Posted by Turnip
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2011 at 11:07 pm

There are some responsible catholics. But individuals who live responsibly themselves,and limit themselves accordingly, should not be forced to provide for irresponsible who do not live within their limits.
And, I suppose you, being for irresponsible breeding, are one of those hypocrites who also preach carbon reduction and climate "control". Well, overpopulating the earth with the biggest carbon producers would illustrate irrational reasoning.

Posted by Turnip
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Photo story in the Valley Times about 3 days ago, showed a black Mother, holding a small baby in diapers, 2 older children, story about the tragedy of not being able to pay your rent. My first thought was, the baby was under a year old, i,e, conceived SINCE the financial collapse. Back to the ol' CHOICES !! Now I get the pleasure of choices on what to do without in order to pay her rent for her, since she doesn't make choices..I certainly wouldn't want to curtail her activities !

Posted by Early Riser
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 26, 2011 at 5:58 am

I agree with the guy with his head in a hole. Forced sterilization for unworthy mothers is an option. Forced abortions. Forced castration. Or taking their kids out of the home is another. And just let the kids endure prolonged nuitritional need. No assistance. Let them suffer and bear the consequences of their mothers' and fathers' choices. Because at the end of the day it's not about assisting the kids, but rather it's about punishing the unworthy breeders.

Above all, we do not want to live in and support a society that takes responsibility for the shortcomings of some for the benefit of society as a whole. Public daycare centers and public schools and free healthcare for the offspring of the unworthies? No way! We need to send out the signal loud and clear: No condom, and your kids will suffer. Guaranteed. That way everybody'll will get more tax money back to keep them afloat in a growing inflationary economy.

Aren't you all grateful that Turnip and me are solving all of society's problems? ... Well, maybe not solving anything. But it sure feels good to hate, doesn't it?

Breeders. You may be wondering where I came up with that noun. Simple. I was born and raised in a barn, and I think like a barnyard animal.

Posted by Beverly Hills Pension Problems
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 26, 2011 at 11:19 am

U.S. Cities Strangled by Cost of Ballooning Pensions

"When Beverly Hills residents found out that many of their city’s 950 municipal and public safety employees were earning stunning salaries, 13 weeks of paid vacation, unlimited overtime and other tax-free retirement benefits, taxpayers were outraged and city officials rushed into closed-door sessions to figure out what to do.

These revelations, exposed through the efforts of the city’s hometown newspaper, The Beverly Hills Courier, unmasked an even deeper problem: many California cities, and likely other municipalities across the U.S., are being strangled by the cost of ballooning pension benefits they can no longer afford.

All this has taken place in the throes of a global recession that is clobbering federal, state and local tax revenues used to pay for public services and pensions, and against the backdrop of the nation’s private-sector workers, who are feeling the pain of reductions, or total losses of their pension funds. And, in many cases, their jobs.

“What we have now is a grab bag of incredible benefits for public employees that are totally detached from what’s been happening in the private sector, and it’s neither fair nor sustainable,” said John Mirisch, a first-term Beverly Hills council member elected in 2009.

“When the city was rolling in dough, officials may have thought the salary and pension structure was sustainable, but certainly, it was not fair.”

A former statistician for the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), the state’s pension fund, warned that by 2014, local governments could be paying 50 percent of a police officer’s salary, 40 percent of a firefighter’s salary and 25 percent of an employee’s salary for their pensions, according to a recent report by the California League of Cities, a statewide advocacy group.

Many cities will face 25 percent or more increases in pension contribution costs in the next three years and those rates are likely to remain high for the next 10 years or more, the report said.”

““When taxpayers are paying the bill, it’s embarrassing institutionally, [especially when] they see the economy of the state, the news reports and plights of people,” says Thomas White, chairman of the Beverly Hills Municipal League, a citizens’ group. “Where is the cost-cutting, the effort to control expenses on a local level, and the control of how our city is managed?”

““The ultimate responsibility rests with the city council to make necessary changes,” Mirisch said. “Who retires at 50 today? Isn’t 70 the new 50? That rhetorical question is indicative of what is wrong with our [pension] system today.”

Read the second half of the story here: Web Link

Posted by Burt
a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Aug 26, 2011 at 11:52 am

Hey Bev, I didn't have time to read. What does it say?

Posted by Shiela
a resident of California Somerset
on Aug 27, 2011 at 6:26 pm

A new study from the Guttmacher Institute reports that as the rate of unintended pregnancies continues to decrease among wealthy or educated women, the rate among women who fall below the federal poverty line has climbed.
It doesn't take a genius to understand that when you cut funding for women's health services, including and especially family planning services, of course you're going to see a rise in unplanned pregnancies. Because slashing funding doesn't mean women are going to stop having sex. They just won't have the knowledge or resources to prevent unintended pregnancies.

And not addressing the epidemic of unintended pregnancies is a serious problem for this country. Because family planning is better for women's health, better for their children's health, better for their relationships, and, as it turns out, it's also better for the economy. Unintended pregnancies, meanwhile, have the opposite effect.

So when Republicans want to balance budgets on the backs of poor women by cutting off their access to health care, including family planning, what they're actually doing is harming women, harming their children and harming the economy.

Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Pleasanton is currently paying over 40% of the salary of police officers for retirement benefits.

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