The devilish details of how to shift more of the town's financial burden for employee benefits onto employees' shoulders will be discussed, again, by the Atherton City Council when it meets on Wednesday, Jan. 16.
The council will also discuss a possible revision of the housing allowance provision in City Manager George Rodericks' contract.
Council members appear to be in agreement on the employee cost-cutting goals of a resolution approved in November, which would affect the town's 10 unrepresented staff members. But the newly constituted council last month rescinded the November decision, and asked staff to figure out a way to slow the pace of the cost shifts -- particularly for retirement benefit contributions -- to ease the employees' burden.
Currently, the town picks up the employees' share of contributions to the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) as well as its own share. The price tag for the employee contributions: $92,000 annually.
The council wants the unrepresented employees to pay their own CalPERS costs in the future. The resolution that passed in November created an 18-month period of incremental changes for the transition.
City Manager Rodericks is presenting two options for council consideration. One extends the transition period to three years, while the other shrinks the period to one year but provides a salary increase "to share the burden" of the transfer, according to Mr. Rodericks' report.
In addition to reducing the town's CalPERS costs, the proposed changes would cap vacation and sick-leave accrual, cap the town's contribution for health benefits, and create a two-tier retirement system (one for current employees and another for new hires) that would also eliminate post-retirement health benefits for new hires.
The resolution will not affect most police department employees, who are represented by a union.
The question of the city manager's housing allowance stems from a provision in his contract, signed in October, that provides $2,500 per month until June 30, at the latest. By June, Mr. Rodericks was to decide on whether to take up residence in the town-owned house in Holbrook-Palmer Park, known as the Watkins House, which has been available to city managers for years as part of their compensation.
But from the beginning, Mr. Rodericks has been hesitant to move to Atherton because he owns a home in Marin County, where he also has familial ties, he said in a staff report. Commuting, he wrote, "was a more realistic alternative."
A council member recently advised Mr. Rodericks that "it may be in the best interest of the town to have someone reside in the Watkins House if the city manager does not desire to use it as a primary residence," the report says. The unnamed council member said Mr. Rodericks' contract might be revised "to accommodate that change as well as provide an opportunity for someone to relocate to the house," it says.
The council will be asked to authorize Mayor Elizabeth Lewis and Vice Mayor Jerry Carlson to work with the city manager to revise the housing benefit provision of his contract.
Also on the agenda are discussions on the possible resumption of renting out space in Holbrook-Palmer Park for special events such as weddings; and approval of a review process for the Menlo-Atherton Little League's proposal to improve the ballfield in the park, a plan that includes a spectator stand and restrooms.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 94 Ashfield Road in the Town Center.