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Letter: City employees should volunteer pay cuts

Original post made on Mar 10, 2009

The expression "Biting the hand that feeds you" comes to mind in today's world when our governments are looking to the taxpayers to keep afloat.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by heather, a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm

[Post removed; see terms of use]

Posted by fiscal accountability, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 10, 2009 at 8:38 pm

start with the list in today's (March 10th) Daily Post of senior administrator salaries. You could probably get twice the effort for half the salaries of some of the overpaid staffers.
Scary that things have gotten so out of control, especially when city hall is closed every other Friday.
Empire building city manager, arrogant SEIU negotiators, time for us to get the council with a backbone in these perilous times.

Posted by Try This One On For Size, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 10, 2009 at 9:33 pm


How about this: City employees will volunteer pay cuts right after Tim Sheeper volunteers to pay rent for the public pool complex.

After all, shouldn't Mr. Sheeper also be held up to "private sector standards" where people don't get brand new $7 million Taj Mahal facilities handed over to them for free to then make money off of hand-over-fist?

Posted by Not in MP, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 8:58 am

Maybe we should talk about universal health care so all Americans can have affordable coverage. It would eliminate those ever increasing, expensive health benefits that drive the cost of employees up. Oh I forgot -- it's easier to vilify public servants who work hard for 30 years and are then crucified for wanting us to live up to the contracts WE agreed to!

Posted by Do The Math, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:30 am

Again with the pool, ridiculous. We're talking about millions overspent on benefits and pensions, and someone has to throw in the pool. Do the math, you make no sense. With a city the size of Menlo Park, we should all be driving on gold plated streets, have wine despensed freely thru our faucets and money growing on trees. These "villified public servants" no doubt are good people, but some of us are very, very tired of paying for something that we cannot afford, nor need. If those that post in favor of no cuts, or salary decreases want to pick up MY 10% cut I just took from my company, please let me know.
Private industry is getting hammered, everyone, everywhere is getting hurt, there is no reasonable excuse for our local city government to not cut back and make some hard decisions. Our current council is no doing it, and someone needs to.

Posted by Deanna Foyle, a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm

City Manager Rojas should set an example and voluntarily cut his pay 10%.

There's the adage, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

Posted by Get a Grip Girl, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Is Mary really for real? Does she really know the cost to live in Menlo Park?

I am so tired of hearing Mary and Lee's (Duboc) comments attacking city workers. Every comment is at the expense of the worker and their "outrageous" salary. I sincerely doubt that an independent study would show that anyone at the City is getting "rich." Compare the rank and file workers with the private sector salaries and I can bet you won't see anything out of line.

The only thing that is happening is certain people in the community are getting their names in the paper. I am learning quick to skip over those letters.

Posted by Golda N. Ruehl, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 11, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Maybe Mary can take a voluntary pay cut and have the money sent to the city.

Posted by Missing The Point, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 11, 2009 at 5:01 pm

At some point in your lives "Get A Grip" and "Golda", please, please, please take pen to paper, with a calculator and make some analytical sense. I don't know who Mary and Lee are, I have never met them. However, they are not attacking anyone in these posts, they simply are tired of paying outlandish benefit and pension packages for perhaps some positions we do NOT need in our city government. Period. It's a tough thing for city leaders, but someone has to take a stand, make decisions, and cut some of this budget. Our taxes are very high, and are on the road to being made higher. Make some sense!

Posted by unemployed, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 11, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Well, I HAVE met Mary and Lee, and I can't say I enjoy spending time with either one. But I agree with them on this point. I don't know anyone who is immune from the current economic meltdown. Our city employees receive salaries, benefits, and vacations that are way out of line with the rest of the world, and we're footing the bill. Time for them to make some cuts, just as the rest of us have done.

Posted by Get a Grip Girl, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 6:02 pm

To say that the city employees receive "outlandish benefit and pension packages" is in itself outlandish. I stand by my earlier statement.

Do you really think the city workers are immune from the current economic meltdown? What do they know that I don't know? I'd love to sign up for that seminar.

Do they not have mortgages? Do they not have personal saving accounts, sticks, IRAs, 401ks (or 457s). I can bet they have lost just as much money as you and I have.

To treat this as you vs them issue is inhumane. We are all part of this economic meltdown, and to try and solve the problem on their backs by asking them to take a paycut is flat out wrong.

Posted by Wrong Get A Grip, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 11, 2009 at 9:40 pm

I challenge you to start diving into the details of a regular city employee's pension by CalPers, and read the part about the amount of money we, as tax payers, pay into their pensions. And, we will be paying more into CalPers, because it is losing money. Currently the conservative amount we are paying into is about 13% of their salary, which may be increased by 4% this year, because of the loss. There are no scheduled salary decreases, expense decreases, benefits taken away etc. The only amount they contribute toward their benefits and pension is 6%, without any co-pay for benefits. Read the detail, then come back to me about who is treating who "inhuman". You NEED to take a seminar, you have no idea what you are talking about.

Posted by Get a Grip Girl, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 12, 2009 at 7:05 am

You missed the point.

The point of her letter was to shoulder all of the economic woes on the City employees and to take ask them to reduce their salary. I again stand by my statement.

We can quote numbers and statistics all day long- but I think someone who works for 30 years doing a good job deserves a livable retirement (especially if they have to continuously deal with cranky residents). No, they don't get an outrageous retirement. A livable retirement. Any financial expert will also tell you that a CalPERS retirement is not enough on its own to support one in retirement, You have to have your own savings.

Posted by Benjamin Linus, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 12, 2009 at 8:26 am

Deanna Foyle,

The city manager makes over $250k with salary and bonuses... and on top of that, he receives another bonus!

Something tells me that he isn't going to give a penny back.

No one has told him yet that his job can be done by a person who makes a fraction of what he gets.

Posted by I'm At That Point, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:05 am

I am at that point....... Even on a little blog, such as this one, many of our California and/or Menlo Park residents, do not understand, nor want to get involved in REALLY understanding our current and future fiscal challenges. We can all sit around and play nice with our city, county and state's budgets, and not make any tough decisions, and eventually drive more than the currently estimated 3,000 people per week, out of the state, OR we can stop this crazy lopsided pension program afforded to our government's employees. I think it's fair, I think it's prudent, and I don't think I am out of line here. A very small number of our state's residents get a retirement/pension similar to our government's employees. I just think we need to make some common, fiscal sense. It is OUR money, we are paying for this. Turn this issue around, and those that are against this opinion tell me if you would pick up MY pension for my company, if we were in the red, failing as a business, operating at a deficit or producing an inferior product.......WHY would you want to do that? I think we need to make some common sense here!

Posted by pragmatic, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:00 am

Run the government as if it were a business. Wow, what a concept! Every other organization in town is belt-tightening; why should our city government be exempt? In the years I've lived in MP, I've seen the staff size grow substantially despite no growth in population or services. Staff takes off one day out of every ten, gets 10 weeks vacation a year, and guaranteed and very generous pension benefits.

No wonder the staff is on this board whining. Our council needs to plug its collective ears and do what's right for the residents and taxpayers.

Posted by Mr. Bonobo, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:44 am

Pragmatic: staff is not getting every 10th day off as a free vacation day. The work schedule still averages out to 40 hours/week. Have you never heard of flex scheduling?

And the employees union had nothing to do with it. Some genius in the city manager's office decided to save on overhead and "better service the public" by closing city hall every other Friday. If you think it's a stupid decision (and where are the savings?) then lobby the council to change it back to a normal Monday-Friday schedule.

Posted by It's Not The Vacations, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 12, 2009 at 11:04 am

First of all, nice comment "Heather". I hope we don't have someone like you as part of our city's government!

From my standpoint, it's not the days off and vacations, it's the pensions.
The pensions are what is going to bankrupt this city, and state. The problem with them right now is that the multiplying effect is almost to the point where there is a negative effect on the budget, almost for eternity, unless something is done. Our options are more taxes, and/or remaking the pension plan. I'm not even suggesting those that are currently our city employees, but those hired, going forward, need to be on a new plan!

Posted by heather, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Do you really think, that you'd find people who will work for less than market wage for twenty years, perhaps more without a decent reitrement package?

No really, lets be honest with one another. Should I work for Menlo Park or some other city at a salary where I can barely afford an apartnemt just so that I can live around the likes of you all who are driving stock options, living in $1 million plus homes, all the while looking down their noses at the "hired help"?

Lets get real, when I took a job with a city I didn't take a vow of poverty so don't expect me to be as meek or as selfless as though I joined the sisters of the poor convent.

When folks like you decide to trade in your 7 series BMW for a VW, then I'll consider holding off on demanding additional enhancemetns to my compensation.

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:52 pm

While I happen to agree with those who think public pension plans need reigning in (going forward, of course since they are, after all, contracts) and I'm among those who feel unions, in many instances, have become part of the problem in many sectors of the economy, I do have some suggestions for City management and Council to consider in order to address the shorter term challenges to the City's finances. My employer, like all others, is facing similar challenges--how to weather the current storm and hopefully emerge intact when the economy improves. Our approach was (1) to revisit the planned short term goals/initiatives, and make some choices of things that could be postponed (low hanging fruit), (2) identify ANY non-critical initiatives, regardless of how noble/popular, that required the use of outside contractors/consultants and eliminate or delay them; especially those that will take longer than 1 year to bear fruit (ROI & Cash Flow).(3) Require any positions that become vacant to have to be scrutinized and rejustified before they can be filled (Zero-base), (4) freeze salaries. By looking at these four areas of opportunity, we were able to trim our budgets enough so as to not have to lay anyone off, reduce any one's compensation, or, most important, do anything that would negatively impact our customers in the shorter term. I think the City leadership has done #1, I don't think they've done #2, they may have implemented #3, don't know, and I don't think they've done #4.

Posted by Typical Heather, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Typical response Heather, from a person that points fingers and blame toward others, and does not accept responsibilities for their own choices. I am very sorry that the city has hired an individual such as yourself, and I question our hiring practices. It again, is OUR money. I have every right to have an opinion as to how it is spent, and to where it is going. I think you are very lucky that you live in the state of California, where it goes overboard with it's union-led compensation. I hope one day there will be a change in this, the taxpayers deserve much better. P.S. If you don't like the compensation, find another job. Don't hold us hostage to overpay for a position that is not needed, or has no return on our investment.

Posted by Benjamin Linus, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 12, 2009 at 4:11 pm


Well said.

Posted by real world, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 12, 2009 at 4:28 pm

"staff is not getting every 10th day off as a free vacation day. The work schedule still averages out to 40 hours/week. Have you never heard of flex scheduling?"

In the rest of the world, 40 hours a week is a part-time job! I've had full-time jobs where I worked 7 days a week until midnight many nights, and no, I didn't get stock options and I don't drive a BMW. The city employees live in a fantasy land.

Posted by [Portion removed] for Robinson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:09 am

Mayor Robinson is just looking out for the little guy.

Posted by Bizarro World, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:48 am

Well this is bizarre. "Real world" thinks 70-hour work weeks is the norm for one full-time job. In third-world sweathops 40 hours/week is a part time job, perhaps, but not everywhere. You have heard of a continent called Europe, right? What about Canada?

Public employment is not charity work. Staff can and should bargain to get the best possible compensation. Our elected officials should also bargain extra hard to make sure that staff isn't overpaid and incompetent. That's how the system works. Don't blame employees for trying to earn money, blame your council for not doing their job.

Posted by I Agree, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:58 am

I agree with Bizarro World, council needs to take a leadership role and make some tough decisions. My only concern is that citizens think that city employees, police, fire etc. do not get paid well, and are borderline charity workers. This is FAR from the truth. This compensation system is so gamed, and complicated, and for a reason, to confuse the tax payer. We need to take a hard look at salaries and how they compare to the private sector, and then look at "guaranteed raises". We need to look at vacation days and how they correlate with overtime and their work cohorts. We need to look at the biggest problem of them all, the guaranteed pensions. There are so many games being played with this, and it getting harder and harder to stomach.

Posted by heather, a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm

To Typical Heather

It isn't your money. It's our money. We earned it and we are going to keep it.

In life two things are certain death and taxes. Get used to it, get over it. Us public employees are here to stay.

We won't grovel for our pay. We won't live in poverty.

Posted by Diana, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Heather, like you, I'm utterly disgusted with some of the comments on this thread. Please remember that not all of us who think the city council needs to pull in the reins while the economy is in the tank buy into the anti-union nonsense that some are spewing.

Personally, I'd like to see the council explore a salary freeze, no bonuses for management, perhaps more co-pay of health benefits, and possibly a once or twice a month furlough for employees. I'd also like to see a renegotiating of the police and sergeants' contracts to lower the amount of salary increases they will get over the next few years, which in these times is neither smart nor fair.

I don't ask anyone to grovel for a decent salary in exchange for committed service to the city -- and employees I've dealt with have always shown commitment. I just think that making minor adjustments now will save staff jobs in the long run. I strongly oppose layoffs.

Posted by Get it straight, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 20, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Excluding upper level management and Police. The average Menlo Park employess doesn't make that much. Compared to other cities, similar positions pay $1-4 more per hour than Menlo Park. Did you know that the current 3 yr contract for employees was 0%(no raise), 1%, and now the employess are on their 3rd year of the contract at a 2% raise. The contract before wasn't any better. Did you also know that employees contribute to Calpers retirement. The City does not pay all of the employees retirement. Where are you getting "over paid from?" Is a child care worker making $45,000 over paid? Is a Maintenance working making $55,000 over paid. These are amounts barely enough to pay rent or mortgagaes. Are these salaries outrageous? What do you think we should earn living in the bay area?We all want to earn enough to take care of our children and have health benefits to care for the family. Are those the things you were not seeking in your American dream? Please don't get mad at the people who care for your children, run the basketball, soccer programs, trim trees, clean the parks, etc.

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