I am a public employee working for the municipal government of the community I live within, the City of Roseville. I am active in the community and the public employee union.
I have been a member of the union’s negotiating team in the last six contracts the union has negotiated on behalf of the miscellaneous employees it represents. In nearly all of those contracts we have foregone all or part of offered raises in order to enhance our medical allowances and retirement benefits. Our aim was to maintain a moderate living for our fellow employees as well as a moderate retirement when their career in public service ended.
Even though the agency we worked for knew there would be future liabilities incurred due to these promised retirement benefits, they refused to plan or put money aside to offset these liabilities. Some of the other agencies in our area like the Elk Grove School District and Peralta Community College District did plan ahead for their future liabilities for promised retirement benefits and worked to put money aside. Beginning in 2004 our public employee union asked that our agency establish and begin to fund a trust fund to offset some of these liabilities as other agencies in our area had done. We were resisted vigorously by the management of our agency.
It isn’t as if we were asking for a handout in this respect. In 1973 our union gave up seven and a half percent of salary in order to pay for retirement health care. The money saved by our agency in salaries over the 37 years since that agreement, if properly placed in a trust, not only would have been enough to pay for our bargaining unit’s retirees’ health care which comprise 45% of our agency’s workforce, but for all the retirees of all of the bargaining units of the agency. Finally after six years, last month with our unfunded liabilities for retirement health care now reaching over $180 million under the current mode of operation and the pressure of GASB rule 45 the employer agreed to establish a trust fund and begin to set money aside to meet its future liabilities. According to the actuary hired by our agency as soon as the trust is established the future liability will be reduced by 40% because the trust will have the ability to invest in instruments forbidden the agency by law.
But still this savings isn’t enough according to the management of the agency. They want to cut our retiree health benefits by 40% also even though this action may be contrary to the California Government Code, ERISA, and several court decisions like Kern vs. City of Long Beach. Additionally, our agency opted out of the Social Security system in 1982 as a cost saving move. This combined with the proposed retiree health benefit cut puts many of our retirees and current employees who were hired between 1982 and 1986 in a bind as they for the most part do not have enough Social Security credit built up to qualify for Medicare Part A and all of our agency’s retirees will have drastically reduced Social Security benefits because of the windfall rule where up to 70% of their Social Security benefits are taken away because they were public employees and have a CalPERS pension. In short, many of our retirees need their full promised retirement health care benefit because they will have less Medicare benefits.
The management and public safety bargaining units of our agency are making 20% to 40% more than they did five years ago. Together the budgets of these units make up 80% of our agency’s general funds budget. This is pretty much the same all over the state. Compare to the miscellaneous employees unit which is making less than they did five years ago. Most public agencies have a management to worker ratio of six to one. Our agency has a ratio of nearly four to one. This compares to the private sector management to worker ratio of fifteen or twenty- five to one.
All of the layoffs at our agency so far have been in the miscellaneous unit. The miscellaneous unit employees are the ones who maintain the streets, operate the water and sewer plants, keep the parks and libraries staffed and open for business, pick up the garbage, and do all the other tasks a municipal agency does to serve the public. These layoffs increase the workloads of the remaining employees while lowering the level of service to the public. In the meantime the ratio of management to worker increases with no increase in workload for the management employee and no real benefit to the taxpaying public.
Concerned City of Roseville Citizen/Employee