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Grand Jury: City employee pay "unsustainable" countywide

Original post made on Jun 3, 2010

The latest report from the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury concludes that employee costs for the county's 15 cities continue to grow at an unsustainable rate, while cities make up for it with service cuts and employee layoffs.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, June 3, 2010, 11:04 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I suppose this is another opportunity for a Mtn View Voice editorial on how the Grand Jury reports are "a dime a dozen" and if we want top flight Library executives (for instance) we have to pay almost $200,000 a year.
This public employee pay & pension cost issue is an amazing non-issue to most people. Perhaps because the only way to correct it is to engage local governments for a difficult and politically risky battle with our own public servants. It could happen if we can find some politicians with integrity and courage. And pigs will fly too.

Posted by Ima Taxpayer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 3, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Hmm..cushy job, pretty much lifetime employment, huge benefits, immune from the economic ups and downs that the private sector (read: most tax payers) face. Whats not to like? And, to boot, the politicians continue to toss (our) money at these folks in order to buy their votes on election day. Ever feel like your the monkey in the "other cage" - the one that keeps getting shocked while the first monkey gets all the rewards?

I have a suggestion. have the municipalities file bankruptcy and renege on all the outrageous pensions and benefits. Its already bad enough that these folks are now paid more than their equivalents in the private sector, yet have much more job security and less accountability - lets not have them kick us in the teeth on the way out the door with their pensions.

Posted by Don Kensil
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 3, 2010 at 2:56 pm

While there may be some argument for some austerity measures in some areas of public service workers, where are the similar measures to require some austerity -i.e. greater personal income tax rates - on those "workers" at the top of the employment pay ranges?

The inequities in our tax system are a greater problem than "overpaid" police personnel (who might wind up taking a bullet for one of us)

Posted by Dee
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 3, 2010 at 2:59 pm

We need to remember not all City employees make what the City Manager
makes. The employees who work on the front line keeping the parks beautiful, the water working, city facilities up-keep and downtown a place you want to go are paid far less. In fact they could go get a job in the construction field that pays more. We need to remember...not all is equal, and we can't broad brush the issue.

Posted by Ima Taxpayer2
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 3, 2010 at 3:23 pm

It's worse than you think. The last CalPers report said its retirement fund for state and local employees was about $55 billion. But this was using CalPers's own accounting methodology. Stanford University published a study of CalPers, CalStrs, and the UC Retirement System that used the same accounting standards that private pension funds are required to use. The recalculated deficit of these 3 funds---$500 billion. That's right, half a trillion. It amounts to about $14,000 for each citizen of the state. If you are a part of a family of three, your family's share is $42,000. If you Google "stanford study calpers retirement systems" you can see the Stanford study, CalPers's response, and other discussions.

Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Similarly, look at the Grand Jury report yourself also....there you find that the "front line" Mtn View employees mentioned above have a median total compensation that grew from $79000 to $123000 in 10 years. Our "first responders" have a median total compensation that grew from $106,000 to $190,000 in 10 years. Compare that $190K to $131K in Los Altos, $146 in Palo Alto. First responders to the trough do pretty well, retirement at 50 with 81% of highest salary. Wow!

Posted by kanank
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 3, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Outrage would be an understatement when I read this article and oter articles how the police/fire/mid-level managers/city managers/attorneys pay themselves like private companie executives and live lives like the sheiks of kingdoms. How unethical are these people. These people were stealing tax payers money legally just like the looters in a riot or actually worse. I can't wait to see the system go completely bust and these people end up with not even a penny.

Posted by the299crew
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 3, 2010 at 4:22 pm

This is as bad as I feared. Thank you MV Voice.

Posted by Mililtary Man
a resident of Castro City
on Jun 3, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I'm tired of hearing how much risk firemen and police put themselves in thereby justifying their inflated salaries.

Pay the police what we pay our military to risk "taking a bullet." If we did, you'd be surprised at how much we would save. Same for fireman.

Posted by John the Man
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 3, 2010 at 6:52 pm

I'm a public employee. All I have to say to all you private sector employees is this:


I don't do squat, I make an OK living at it, I have an awesome pension, I am never in danger of being laid off, and as long as I simply show up to work, I can't be fired. I don't get bonuses but I do get to cash out my sick leave when it's all over.

Oh, and I get lifetime health insurance. For free.

I love my job.

Posted by disgusted
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I'm a private sector employee. I sit in a cubicle all day and send emails and talk on the phone. Nobody would really even notice if I didn't show up to work at all. I make no positive impact on anyone around me. In fact if my entire company vanished off the face of the earth there would be a half dozen others still around that do basically the same thing. I make a decent living but derive no personal satisfaction from what I do. I hate my job.

I have this to say to all public employees:
I wish I had chosen a profession dedicated to service to my community.

As all of you anonymous armchair quarterbacks sit in your glass houses and throw stones ask yourself what contribution to anything of worth you have had. I don't think most public employees would have any difficulty answering that.

Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 3, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I was a Federal civil servant for a little over 40 years under the Civil Service Retirement System and got what I thought was a very generous pension: 71% of my high-three-years average salary, with survivor benefits for my wife. (But no Social Security.)

Congress decided in the '80s that was too generous and started the Federal Employees Retirement System for all new employees (now the majority). This system is slightly more generous, but now a significant part of it is funded with employee contributions to a 401(k)-like system. (And it now includes Social Security as another part.)

The City (County, State) could also decide their retirement system needs to be revised. As James said, "And pigs will fly too."

Posted by Beth
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2010 at 6:44 am

To John the man, thanks for trying to pose and speak for public employees. I am a public employee and I can tell you that I don't just sit and collect a check. I bust my butt to get the job done and to get it done well. My co-workers are the same. We strive to provide a high level of service to the public and sitting on our butts wouldn't accomplish that. Be careful what you say, like someone said above don't broad brush the issue, there are many levels to this and we are people too with families to support. I can tell you I'm not living like "sheiks of kingdoms". I live modestly and barely have enough to cover the monthly expenses just like everyone else in the Bay Area.

Posted by John the Man
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 4, 2010 at 9:02 am

Funny... I never said I was speaking for anyone but myself. Do you normally read that much into what others write? I sure hope not, but I suspect you do.

Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2010 at 11:28 am

The compensation models for government seem to be:

1) Uncapped salaries, doubling every 12-15 years
2) Salaries based on number of years of employment, not merit
3) Pensions based on high years' salaries
4) Pension COLAs increase payouts, regardless of CPI

So .. it does not take more than 30-40 years before public sector salaries are significantly larger than equivalent private sector salaries.

And the pensions payouts (for a 30-year period) generally amount up to twice what the employee makes from actually working, as shown in the example below--

Using a COLA of only 2%, public safety retirees receive the following payouts:

Total Pension Payouts
$100K--10-Years: $1.1M | 20-Years: $2.5M | 30-Years: $4.1M
$150K--10-Years: $1.7M | 20-Years: $3.4M | 30-Years: $6.2M
$200K--10-Years: $2.2M | 20-Years: $5.0M | 30-Years: $8.3M

Police and Fire Department employees are routinely drawing over $100K in the larger CA cities. Their pension is 90% of their high salary. In another decade, or so, the public sector will totally bankrupt the private sector with their pension demands.

We are now beginning to see top management drawing $300+K a year, and in the case of Santa Clara County Medical Staff, many well over $400K a year.

Virtually no one in government management understands this, because they have "outsourced" the management of pensions to CalSTRS and CalPERS.

This is a mess .. and needs to get cleaned up pronto.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 4, 2010 at 11:28 am


You forgot to add that you don't need to save for retirement since you'll just keep right on getting the same pay check and benefits when you retire thanks to us private sector taxpayers who have to budget and save.

Posted by Ted
a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 4, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Unless MV declares bankruptcy, the taxpayers of MV are stuck with these overly generous salaries and pensions. As a result, we'll see our taxes increase and our city's infrastructure and services decay. :-{

Posted by Please Stop. This is not news.
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm

I do not want to see lower quality employees working for Mountain View. If the city has the budget to buy up property all over the town then they are not in any budgetary problems and are playing a smoke and mirrors game. This article is another example of the problem where the city and county top staff are pointing the blam elsewhere and are looking to scare their employees. I am glad I am not in the public sector.

Posted by Lisa
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm

The irony of this forum is that when you watch a council meeting on the budget, the ONLY people in the audience are the employees. Last year only one resident spoke up. If we are as upset as we say we are, we should send emails to the council saying enough is enough and go and say so in public at a council meeting.

Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 4, 2010 at 4:20 pm

My staff sources tell me that CM Duggan will deliver a balanced budget but the majority of council will not support sustainable finances.

Posted by John the Man
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Lisa, what makes this forum '(ironic)' vis-a-vis city council meetings? I don't think you really understand what you wrote or maybe you don't understand the definition of 'irony'. Care to try again?

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2010 at 8:17 am

@Lisa: The employees in Chambers during Council meetings are there because it's their JOB to be there. They're working. You're right about the abysmal apathy of the general public, most of whom refuse to be involved in the process of governing, instead preferring to carp online in forums like this, where their whining and complaining accomplish nothing.

@karanak: I never knew that looters could legally root during riots. Thanks for that info. I'll remember that next time I'm in a riot. Could be lucrative.

Posted by the299crew
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Kanank - I agree in quite the same way as you do, but with a slight perceived difference in the mechanism of their theft. We probably do need to go bust, but with the foxes watching the hen house in bankruptcy court, all the furry critters will come out without a loss at all. All the taxpayers will still be writing the big checks. I wish it were different, but I can't see that yet happening. However, going bust would be a good start. How can we file?

Posted by dude
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm

People who so-called "carp" here are most likely the ones that vote. They are the ones that are tracking the issues and getting involved by commenting and voting.

Posted by Chewbacca
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Shut up and go apply!

Posted by Tough Love
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 7, 2010 at 6:15 am

We're STILL going to have to reduce the pensions, and NOT just for new employees, but for FUTURE years of service for CURRENT employees. That, and the free or near free retiree healthcare are the ROOT CAUSE of NJ's financial problems. Specifically, we need : (1) reduced pensions for CURRENT employees (2) a HUGE reduction inn retiree healthcare subsidies with retirees paying AT LEAST 50% of the cost (3) Smaller government .... outsource almost everything

Posted by fedWorker
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 12, 2010 at 11:43 pm

City/County compensation is a bit much. retire at 50? 91% high year? full medical? salaries over $200K? compare that to the federal compensation: 1% of high-3 avg * yrs of service w/ retirement at 63... salary for a world renowned scientist? well under $200K, and no stock options. I, for one, think federal compensation is generous, that is why it is called SERVICE. there is pride, responsibility and, yes, SACRIFICE that goes along with being a civil servant... the tradeoff is that you have job security. It is not for everyone, and should never become a path to riches. Time to reel public compensation back in... maybe the cities should just mimic the federal GS scale and FERS compensation model? Are the public employee unions ready to make the case that the largest employer in the country (US govt) significantly underpays its employees? I think most people would be disgusted.

Posted by JR
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Aug 14, 2010 at 8:14 am

I think Lisa my be onto something. I agree we should be demonstrating the fact the city management is only worried about themselves. We are like a bunch of sheep being led off to slaughter. Unless the citizens of M.V. gets off their behinds, we deserve what we get. "WE" do elect the people making these decisions. It's like having the fox watch the chicken house. If a chicken come up missing once in a while will would notice. I know that there was a article in the Palo Alto newspaper a while back stating that in Palo Alto after six years of service that member was entitled to medical benefits for life. In Bell, Ca. it was reported that city council members were paid 100K per year. Does M.V. pay pay its city council? The San Jose Mercury News also reported our police chief held down both his position and that of the fire chief for a year and was compensated an additional $200K. If he has enough spare time to do both jobs maybe just maybe we don't need the fire chief. That's a savings of approximately a quarter million dollars savings right off the bat. Look at Sunnyvale where the city has public safety officers which serve as both police officers and fire fighters. It's time the city learns how to do more with less.

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