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Guest opinion: Jury report off base, councilwoman says

Original post made on Sep 23, 2009

The 2009 San Mateo County Grand Jury report on county-wide employee costs addressed a serious problem facing fiduciary stewards of cities. Unfortunately, the report was largely inaccurate, and particularly unfair regarding Menlo Park. It oversimplified and locally politicized this important issue.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (8)

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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:02 am

Ms. Fergusson. I think I can answer the question why the Grand Jury concerned itself with Menlo Park. Allow me to preface my comments by stating that I have no opinion on whether members of the Grand Jury used their position for political posturing. However, as the table below shows the CalPers Contribution Rates for Safety Plan Members is very high. Given that many Public Employee Contracts also require the Employer to pay the Employee 8% contribution this puts Menlo Park Safety Plan rate at almost 43% of salary. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District is even higher. As the Alamanc has reported, with the recent loses by CalPers, the Contribution Rates as percentage of salary are about to skyrocket.

Although the City of San Carlos has higher rates I believe the Grand Jury acknowledged that San Carlos had at least attempted to control the costs by initiating a second tier plan for new hires.

Employer Contribution Rates
City of Burlingame 2009 2008 2007
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 11.209 % 11.854 % 9.525 %
SAFETY FIRE PLAN 17.221 % 16.122 % 15.194 %
SAFETY POLICE PLAN 20.059 % 19.985 % 19.541 %

City of Palo Alto
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 17.063 % 17.005 % 17.437 %
SAFETY PLAN 23.938 % 24.512 % 23.611 %

City of Menlo Park
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 14.597 % 9.682 % 9.67 %
SAFETY PLAN 34.909 % 36.489 % 32.701 %

County of Santa Clara
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 12.879 % 13.376 % 12.902 %
SAFETY PLAN 22.948 % 23.475 % 26.875 %

City of Redwood City
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 15.423 % 15.333 % 15.809 %
SAFETY PLAN 29.389 % 29.903 % 30.131 %

City of East Palo Alto
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 11.262 % 11.579 % 8.399 %
SAFETY POLICE PLAN 19.666 % 19.081 % 13.027 %

City of San Carlos

Menlo Park Fire Protection District
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 11.478 % 11.06 % 10.577 %
SAFETY PLAN 39.088 % 39.015 % 37.079 %

Woodside Fire Protection District
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 21.7 % 20.298 % 16.168 %
SAFETY PLAN 31.465 % 30.739 % 27.574 %

West Bay Sanitary District
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 9.081 % 8.864 % 8.53 %

East Palo Alto Sanitary District
MISCELLANEOUS PLAN 14.92 % 14.973 % 15.544 %

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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:03 am

Perhaps someone at the Almanac can realign those columns

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Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2009 at 9:06 am

Thanks for those figures, Interested. We need to stop focusing on the grand jury and start addressing the urgent problem the jury tried to shed light on. Employee costs are unsustainable. Let's not let our attention be deflected from that fact. Let's fix the problem.

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Posted by Tim
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Don't lose sight of Ms. Fergusson's spot on comments about the need to sustain a balance between pay and the quality of performance expected of public employees in delivering services. Residents of each community should give careful and thoughtful consideration of the potential cost risk incurred with higher employee turnover rates, and with less experienced employees making the agency's purchasing and contract administration decisions. I certainly wouldn't turn to a 20-something yr old at a financial institution who was selling cell phones last year before getting some retraining to manage my Keough and investment portfolio; why would I want to treat my tax dollars any differently?

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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Your point is well made Tim. However I think it is important to take into consideration both the current economic climate and the current unemployment levels. Unlike a few years ago I believe the time is right for the City of Menlo Park to seriously consider establishing a two tier system as San Carlos has done. It will not resolve the problem immediately, but will certainly set a course for the future.

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Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:26 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Where you are mistaker "INTERESTED"

I believe Ms.Fergusson is genuinely concerned and has done a more than admirable job in her assessments. In fact, she impressed me so much compared to most council members in the San Mateo County system in different cities, I have watched her involvement, concern and her frustration when she articulates issues so profoundly and is left hanging as if no one wants to listen.
Also, I have seen "Grand Juries" from every kind of court system, and am left bewildered as to how they earned their seats.

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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2009 at 12:45 am

Rich. What am I mistaken about?

I am not sure how you have construed that I do not share your opinion of Ms. Fergusson. On the contrary on the occasions I have spoken with her I have been very impressed. Certainly nothing I have written could give the impression otherwise. I was simply trying to show that the CalPers benefit cost for Menlo Park are very high and I could understand why the Grand Jury looked more closely at Menlo Park as a result.

I also believe Ms. Fergusson would welcome the public's suggestions, she has said so. Hence my suggestion that the City consider a two tier benefit system.

The economic issues facing Menlo Park will not be resolved until we concentrate on policies and not personalities.

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Posted by Alarmed
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 24, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Fergussen's rant and guest opinion are not as constructive as the comments above. To state that the grand jury's recommendations are a political attack from a former mayor who influenced the grand jury into singling out Menlo Park is irresponsible and simply not true.In shaping her conspiracy theory she went so far as to imply that developers are behind the writers of the report. Bizzare, but it may work to deflect criticism when she ignores the reports recommendations.

Our most serious managerial problem has been the union benefits packages for years now. Kelly was elected with money, campaign volunteers and union attacks on her opponents for which she is deeply indebted. To protect her SEIU campaign contributers she must do her best to preserve the status quo. This response was very creative and runs counter to the interests of the citizens of Menlo Park. It is also a great example of the mean spirited, divisive Menlo Park politicking we all want ended.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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