Mountain View Voice

News - July 30, 2010

Council agrees, employees are overpaid

Grand jury report says cities' staff costs need to be reigned in

by Daniel DeBolt

A recent Civil Grand Jury report that slams local cities for overcompensating their employees was largely met with agreement by Mountain View city management in a response unanimously approved Tuesday by the City Council.

The report found that Santa Clara County cities awarded generous retirement pensions, health benefits and regular pay raises to their unionized employees during Silicon Valley's economic boom years, perks which they are now contractually obligated to make. Now, those cities must make severe cuts in services to pay those employees.

The gist of City Manager Kevin Duggan's written response to the report was that the city agrees that personnel costs are too high in many respects, and that Mountain View was among the first cities to take cost cutting measures, including a two-tier system where certain new hires have reduced retirement and health care benefits.

"We should go ahead and toot our own horn a bit," said council member Margaret Abe-Koga. "I think we have a lot of best practices here in Mountain View that we can share with others."

Council member Laura Macias agreed. "Here's a chance to do some bragging, since we have controlled costs a lot," she said.

Council member John Inks was the most critical, saying that Mountain View has done "a pretty good job" keeping employee costs down, but contended that the city's employee compensation costs were still "well above average" compared to other cities in the county.

Duggan responded to a list of recommendations and assertions in the report. Here are some highlights:

• The city agrees that cities should retain the ability to "adjust or withhold" pay raises "based on current economic data. Increases in compensation need to be more directly tied to a variety of factors, including the ability to pay," Duggan writes.

• The city disagrees with the grand jury's finding that pay raises are often arbitrary, because "step" increases are given as an employee gains experience and skill.

• The city agrees that health insurance cost increases exceed the city's revenue growth and that city employees do not contribute enough to their health care costs.

•The city agrees that partly because of stock market losses and an aging workforce, healthcare and retiree pension costs are the "most problematic and unsustainable" costs the city is facing.

• The city is analyzing recommendations to increase its retirement age and to create a second-tier retirement pension benefit for new hires.

• The city is implementing a recommendation for increased outsourcing, with private contractors being used for janitorial services, park maintenance and patrol, "professional services" and possibly golf course operations.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by le dude, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 30, 2010 at 5:17 pm

That's right, pat yourselves on the back City Council. Everyone else go read the SJ Mercury News article to find out that MV employees are the 4th highest paid in the county. The City Manager and City Attorney should be fired for having built in such great and irreversible pay packages over the years a la Bell, CA.


Posted by curious, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 30, 2010 at 10:08 pm

"a second-tier retirement pension benefit for new hires. "

Since when can we never change retirement systems for current employees? This happens all the time in private industry. People get paid for their contribution to the system at the time of the change and then everyone is on the same system.

If Mountain View is so good, the city government should post the wages and benefits of all city employees on their website, as requested by the governor. And none of this baloney that they can't do this for personnel privacy issues. The SJ Mercury News won a law suit on that after the bureaucrats fought them all the way to the Supreme Court using our money. But all the Mercury-News got was a one-time dump.

Well, it's time for the sun to shine. Mountain View like all other CA governments is facing an unsustainable debt from our agreements with the government employee unions. The situation is so bad that they soon will have to confiscate all the assets of taxpayers in the city to pay it off. Meanwhile the bozos on the Council are patting themselves on the back about how tough they are. What have they done about the $90,000 per year gardeners at the City golf course?


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