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City gets employees to pick up benefits payments

The city council approved a shift of retirement contributions from the city’s pockets to its employees at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

A 3-2 vote, with council members Opanyi Nasiali and Corey Calaycay opposed, they adopted 4 Memorandums of Understanding between the city and its employee associations that will have non-sanitation workers paying their Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) contribution over the next 3 years.

The city hopes the change will aid the restoration of Claremont’s budget, said Mayor Pro Temp Larry Schroeder.

“These concessions in these agreements, along with reasonable commercial development, will lead us well beyond 2015-2016 to a successful path for the community without raising taxes,” Mr. Schroeder said.  “I’ve seen the numbers from staff, and I don’t think you can argue with the numbers.”

City staff and representatives of the Claremont Employees’ Association (CEA) have been discussing changes to the memorandum since October 2010, according to Mr. Parker. In previous years, the city paid the full 8 percent toward each employee’s PERS without requiring employee contribution.

Under the Memorandums of Understanding, non-sanitation employees will be paying the full 8 percent toward their own PERS member contributions by 2013, using a cumulative tax deferred basis. Non-sanitation employees will begin paying 3 percent on August 22, and will add an additional 3 percent to that amount on July 9, 2012. The last 2 percent will round out the figure on July 8, 2013.

Mr. Nasiali, though in favor of non-sanitation employees paying the full amount, felt the city should nix the rolling numbers and have employees pay the 8 percent total immediately. With the city seeing a possible $2.5 million deficit in the next 5 years if expenditures and revenue remains the same, action needs to start now, according to Mr. Nasiali.

“The current economic state constitutes a new ball game,” he said. “If the employees were to pay their full share, we would not have a deficit in 5 years. We all need to bare this burden together. We are not going far enough.”

Though employees will now be responsible for their own PERS costs, Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) will also see a rolling increase, offsetting the new contributions. Beginning with a 1.5 percent increase this month, an additional 1.5 increase will take effect July 1, 2012 and another 1.5 percent increase on July 1, 2013.

In the end, non-sanitation employees will see a 1.5 percent decrease in paychecks, plus taxing costs, according to city officials.

Mayor Pedroza addressed the city before passing the Memorandums, assuring the community of the council’s continued interest in doing what it can for its employees while avoiding adding tax increases or other measures in order to face Claremont’s uncertain financial future.

“This is the art of compromise. It’s something we are not seeing at the federal level, but are still seeing at the local level,” said Mayor Sam Pedroza. “Our employees have been very forthcoming in these negotiations. I do hope residents can see that although this is not a council on agreement, we are reflecting on what our community is all about.”

—Beth Hartnett

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