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Grand jury: Pension costs out of control

Original post made on Aug 3, 2012

A recent grand jury report dissects a topic near and dear to many hearts in San Mateo County: "Controlling the County's Escalating Pension Costs."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 3, 2012, 11:30 AM

Comments (15)

Posted by Janet, a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Aug 3, 2012 at 12:17 pm

A first step in controlling costs would be to ban double dipping. This is an especial problem in the Sheriff's Office. The pensions which retired employees get in ADDITION to social security is a total disgrace, especially given the high salaries for sometimes very low qualifications. Another thing that should be controlled is the rampant nepotism that flourishes in San Mateo County.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

No, a first step in controlling costs would be to change pensions to defined contributions (not defined benefits) and have it apply immediately to all newly hired employees.

There is simply no excuse for a single newly hired employee to compound this error.

That should be changed TODAY... kinda like Governor Brown promised when he was elected two years ago.


Posted by Sir Toppem Hatt, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Aug 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Withdrawal from social security? Is that an option? Where do I sign up?


Posted by Sir Bottom Hat, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Sign out of Soc. Sec? Become a teacher! That's your answer Sir Toppem. Why worry at all about what you've contributed. Just kiss that all goodbye.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 3, 2012 at 5:23 pm

First: I don't think retired Sheriff's deputies can collect Social Security; at least for the period of time they were contributing to their retirement plan. It is my understanding that they, like most other public employees, can "opt out" and provide what they would have been paying into the SSS to their retiremet plan. If they are able to collect any SS benefits it would be based upon what income that made outside of that period of time.

Second: POGO is correct. That fastest way to begin to correct this problem is to change the retirement plans of all newly hired public sector workers to defined benefit, 401k type plans. That is what the private sector has to rely on for their retirement and it doesn't require the former employer to pony up more money when the retirement plan doesn't meet earnings expectations on its investments.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 4, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Menlo Voter is correct.


Posted by Susan Smith, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 5, 2012 at 10:21 am

Maybe it would help to control things if The people who vote upon the employee contracts were not INCLUDED in the bargaining unit. Also, perhaps our elected officials could start thinking and quantifying the second and third generation consequences of their votes.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

"Also, perhaps our elected officials could start thinking and quantifying the second and third generation consequences of their votes."

Ms. Smith: you hit the nail on the head for cause of our current crisis. Our elected officials didn't think ahead to the consequences of their actions. Why? BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T CARE. They were able to present themselves as "tough" to the elctorate becasue they were holding down pay raises all the while giving up the farm. Nobody was paying any attention to the tenth of a percent increases that were given over the course of time for retirement plans. They knew full well that most if not all of them would be gone or have moved on to other offices when it finally came time to pay the piper. Why did they do this? Because the labor unions bought and paid for them. Until we as voters stop electing people that have union backing this kind of garbage will continue because we will continue to have no one representing us sitting at the bargaining table. Frankly, I'm not holding my breath. The American elctorate has repeatedly shown themselves to be stupid and easily manipulated.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm

My turn.

Menlo Voter is absolutely correct.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm

BECAUSE THEY DON'T/DIDN'T CARE. they won't be there very long.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 5, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Mr. Stogner:

I hope that you are correct, but past experience tells me you are not. As I said, The American elctorate has repeatedly shown themselves to be stupid and easily manipulated.

Until the electorate stops thinking that endorsements from police, fire and public worker unions are golden, we will continue to see the same nonsense, over and over and over again. And the politicians know it. So they just keep on sucking up that union money and their endorsements. I have no hope that it will change.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 7, 2012 at 6:57 am

Yes, Menlo Voter is correct. Getting the electorate to weigh in would be very useful and saying enough is enough. Unfortunately, with public safety, the unions often play the "we provide a valuable service" card and so the electorate tends to be sympathetic, especially if there has been a recent significant event.

As an example, the Menlo Park fire fighters are 3+ years without a contract because the union refuses to negotiate and continues to file lawsuits. Originally they asked for an 11% raise. The latest offer was rejected as not a good starting point.

With cities throughout CA going bankrupt, at what point will the electorate say enough is enough and demand reform?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 7, 2012 at 7:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thanks to a strong and united Fire Board and its policies which ensure public input at the BEGINNING of any negotiations, a 15 day public comment period BEFORE voting on any new labor agreement and an unwillingness to yield to the unions demands we may well see a breakthrough.

There are a lot of different ways that the Fire Board can 'provide a valuable service.'

IF the union continues to refuse to even negotiate then the Fire Board, representing the citizens so wonderfully, may well issue an RFP to contract out future fire services.


Posted by henry fox, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm

note what the Grand Jury Report actually finds:
Given the restrictions of current State laws, the most effective way for the County to control retirement costs is to reduce the number of employees by introducing staffing efficiencies, reducing service levels and/or contracting out County functions.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 7, 2012 at 2:20 pm

With all due respect to the Civil Grand Jury, hiring fewer employees is one solution, but far from the most effective.

If you don't change the way pensions are calculated and paid, especially for employees yet to be hired, you are just compounding the problem.

Effective? How about addressing the problem and correcting the mistake.


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