Updated: Mon, Sep 19, 2011, 12:57 pm
Uploaded: Mon, Sep 19, 2011, 11:47 am
Unions sue Menlo Park over pension initiative
Measure L under legal attack
Two labor unions filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court on Sept. 15, challenging the legality of Measure L, the pension reform initiative passed last year by 72 percent of Menlo Park voters.
Measure L raised the minimum retirement age for new Menlo Park public employees, excluding police officers, by five years to 60, and also decreased their maximum pension benefits by 0.7 percentage points to 2 percent of their highest annual salary averaged over three years.
Under this measure, a new hire who retired at age 60 after working for the city for 30 years would receive 60 percent of his or her average salary. Current employees can retire at age 55 and get 81 percent after working 30 years.
Finally, Measure L also took benefit increases out of the hands of the City Council -- all increases now require voter approval, which seems to be the key issue at the heart of this latest lawsuit, based on documents filed by Olson, Hagel & Fishburn, the firm representing union interests.
Describing the measure as "clearly invalid," the filing states that Measure L is void by "usurping the authority the Legislature has exclusively delegated to the City Council and purporting to impose terms and conditions of employment in a manner contrary to state labor relations."
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) lost a lawsuit to keep Measure L off the ballot, and then poured at least $69,000 into defeating it at the ballot box, according to campaign finance reports.
"They're misguided, litigious, and they're making the city spend resources," said Roy Thiele-Sardina, who helped lead Measure L to a successful showing at the ballot box.
Union representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Posted by Steve,
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 27, 2011 at 6:23 pm
You call me a "defender of the status quo". Does that make me a conservative? :-/
I thought I'd look at personnel costs to the city for the past 9 years to see what it shows on how the Council is controlling costs (or not). This info comes from the annual budget reports put out by the city manager and is available at Web Link.
FY2011/2012 Personnel: $26,929,726 72% Total Expenses $37,358,599
FY2010/2011 Personnel: $27,818,285 73% Total Expenses $38,207,591
FY2009/2010 Personnel: $27,535,685 72% Total Expenses $38,204,520
FY2008/2009 Personnel: $27,200,261 71% Total Expenses $38,236,168
FY2007/2008 Personnel: $25,225,796 70% Total Expenses $35,907,229
FY2006/2007 Personnel: $21,970,518 67% Total Expenses $32,593,501
FY2005/2006 Personnel: $21,844,458 76% Total Expenses $28,882,312
FY2004/2005 Personnel: $20,097,954 69% Total Expenses $29,229,090
FY2003/2004 Personnel: $18,966,065 72% Total Expenses $26,298,918
The first bump in personnel costs came in 2005/2006. This is because, from 1998 to 2004, CALPERS earnings on their investments were so great that they didn't require cities to contribute toward their employee retirement funds at all. With the dot com crash, this changed and the first charge showed up in 2005 - an increase of about a $million. It's interesting that as a percentage of total expenses, 2005/2006 had the highest personnel costs of any year in the past nine.
The big jump in labor costs came in 2007/2008 after Council approved the increase in retirement rates, following the lead of the state and in order to remain competitive with other cities. This shows as a bump of about $3.25 million. This is the "unaffordable" benefits increase that Measure L was intended to reverse. It's interesting that even with this big bump, as a percentage of total expenses, personnel costs remained about 70%, less than they'd been in 03/04 and 05/06.
The next bump came the following year (08/09) when, I believe, the council approved significant raises for police officers in order to reduce the turnover rate in the department that, at the time, was over 50%. In this they were successful. Police attrition is way down.
Personnel costs (and total expenses) remained more or less flat for the next 3 years and even show a nominal decline during the current fiscal year. In reading further into these budgets, this cost control was accomplished over these four years by reducing staff positions, largely through attrition, and increasing employee contributions to both their health and retirement systems. All this, by the way, was accomplished through collective bargaining between the city and the employee unions. No arm-twisting initiatives were required.
The numbers, to my mind, demonstrate that the city government has been very responsive to the effects of the economic downturn and has had demonstrable success at keeping both labor & overall costs under control.
In other words, our city government, under direction of the City Council, is doing a darn good job under very trying economic conditions. They should be acknowledged, if not applauded, for their success, rather than derided as seems to be the preference of some people on this blog.
Just my opinion - but at least I've got some facts to base that opinion on.
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