Glen Becerra at Governor’s Roundtable

Becerra shares City’s experience of Union and Management working together for pension reform

Pension reform is a term voters will hear much about in the months ahead. Government agencies in California, from the State on down to the cities and special districts, are acutely aware of rising retirement program costs.

Gov, Schwarzenegger this month hosted a pension reform roundtable in Sacramento – and Simi Valley City Councilman Glen Becerra was invited and participated, at the suggestion of the League of California Cities. See the Ventura County Star article.

Glen’s invitation to serve the roundtable was good news for Simi Valley, and excellent timing by the Governor. The City of Simi Valley this month ratified a new contract with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that includes precisely the type of pension reform movement the roundtable aims for.

Participation by Glen Becerra and the City of Simi Valley in the statewide debate allows Simi Valley officials to share their concern and the real impact of rising pension costs on the level of services cities can provide to their residents.

As Glen stated in the Star article, it is noteworthy that Simi Valley’s retirement contributions a decade ago totaled $1.8 million, representing about 4 percent of the entire City’s budget. Today that same cost sits at $8 million, or 15 percent of the City budget – with projections that it will hit 20 percent in the next five years.

“It will impact the quality of life for our residents,” Glen Becerra told the Star.

He added that the City’s SEIU bargaining unit was a cooperative partner in negotiating the new contract. It is important for employee groups and government agencies to work together to address the challenges, with the ultimate goal of making the government agencies more healthy financially to ensure their long-term success.

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Pension Reform Settled, POA Still Pending

You’ve probably already heard the news. The City of Simi Valley has settled negotiations on pension reform for City employees after several weeks of talks with the Service Employees International Union that represents all city employees (not including police officers).

City Councilmembers acknowledged that the city employees are making sacrafices and are grateful for that in these rough economical times. Councilman Steve Sojka was quoted in the Simi Valley Acorn acknowledging that city employees are effectively taking a cut in an effort to help the city keep its head above water during hard times.  The Acorn article elaborates on the deal:

That help included the SEIU’s making significant concessions concerning employee retirement plans. Under the terms of the new agreement, current employees will contribute 3.97 percent and all new employees—hired on or after July 1, 2010—will contribute 7 percent of salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS).

The change is expected to save the city $1.65 million.

It’s probably a sure bet that the city employees aren’t necessarily happy with the deal or walking away from negotiations with a warm fuzzy feeling. Nobody wants to make sacrifices in either the form of reduced pay, reduced benefits, or suddenly having to contribute more to a benefits program when not having to worry about that in the past. Speaking personally, I can say with sincerity that I am VERY grateful for the sacrifices made by our city employees. Thank you!

But the negotiations aren’t over yet. Simi Valley Police were asked to make pay cuts last year and did so after a lengthy and dramatic negotiation process, where the Police Officers Association (POA) considered hiring a Public Relations firm to spread the word about the issue. Once the terms were settled, the POA was clearly unhappy with the resulting cut in salaries and shortly after announced the formation of their Political Action Committee (PAC). The PAC is funded by an increase in POA union dues.

Despite the fact that other city employees were asked to take cuts in pay, a strong belief remains that the pay cut applied to Police Officers in Simi Valley was unfair. With more contract negotiations looming, anticipation is certainly beginning to build. City Council Candidate Mike Judge has something to say about it to his supporters, suggesting that “pro law enforcement” sentiments by our current City Council are disingenuous (see his remarks below on his campaign page on Facebook).

Our City Leadership scored some points with the negotiations with city employees, but it’s obvious there’s more challenging work ahead.

City Council Candidate Mike Judge on Facebook