Retired officers top Palo Alto's list of earners Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:48 am
As some of Palo Alto's longest serving police officers and firefighters head for retirement in the face of benefit reductions, some are cashing in on years' worth of unused vacation, holiday and sick pay -- factors that in some instances have caused their overall compensation to more than double. Related material:
[Web Link View 2011 Palo Alto city employee salaries (those earning at least $51,000)] (PDF)
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 8:31 AM
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:48 am
These days, public sector salaries can range up to $250K with some public safety employees making over $300K/year. These employees also receive pensions (deferred salaries) linked to the highest year’s salary. Public safety employees in large cities routinely make more than $100K/year. With robust COLAs, public sector employees will likely make more in their retirement years than in their working years.
Over thirty years, CalPERS retirees receive the following payouts:
There is simply no way that school districts and city governments can pay the retirement contributions of their employees without increasing taxes/fees/fines for everything associated with government. Taxpayers already see about 65% of their income subject to statutory taxes. Government at all levels has been diverting about 40% of GDP for its needs in the past. Obamanomics has driven this number closer to 50%, and some believe he will push it higher in the future.
Public sector salaries must be reduced, and pensions delinked from salaries to keep Government finances from being overwhelmed. This will not be easy, but over time, it can be done.Public sector employers need to start providing employees, and the public, total-cost-of-compensation numbers for each employee, as well as total-life-time-compensation numbers, which include all likely pension payouts. These are the facts that have been missing from the public debate about pensions, and the cost of government.
Presumably all of the "cash-outs" (one time payments for various unused "benefits") are not included in the calculation of retirement "salaries", but still, these kinds of payouts are hardly a good use of public funds, and demonstrate how badly our "elected officials" have been making decisions involving the use of public funds in the past. Sadly, it's difficult to believe that they are going to do any better in the future.
Posted by Anthony, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:50 am
This is ridiculous.
If this is how the city uses its money, how dare they ask for more from the taxpaying public who has no such ridiculous benefits.
Now our city council wants us to pay extra for infrastructure repairs that should have been serviced with the tax dollars that were instead used to giveaway ridiculous perks and salaries to govt. workers.
They also want to spike our utility rates so that the users tax, which is paid directly into the general fund, can help continue to support the lavish pay and benefits that the govt. granted its own bureaucrats.
Our greedy public sector has succeeded in completely disillusioning this voter to any future govt revenue. In fact I want to see the land-grab's they have already made (such as the UUT) repealed.
If the taxpayers keep bailing out the govt. bureaucracy, it'll be happy to keep rewarding itself with ridiculous overpayment and benefits. It's time for us to stop filling and refilling the trough.
Posted by Anthony, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:03 am
I encourage everyone to view the pdf of government salaries attached to the article. The compensation throughout is ridiculous.
For example, am I the only one who thinks that paying street sweepers over 90K per year in total compensation (plus having our kids have to backfill their pensions when they retire) is a poor use of our tax dollars?
We could probably cut costs by 1/3 to 1/2 by outsourcing most govt. functions. The private sector can certainly man a street sweeper for less than 90K per year. With this unemployment there would be hundreds waiting to do so for half the pay.
Posted by Enough!, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:10 am
Hello Entitled Ones! How are we this fine day? How wonderful! An opportunity to bash public servants, one of Palo Alto's fav sports! Mind you, when YOU go to work it's highly doubtful that YOU may have to take a bullet or perish in a fire saving ungrateful people. And, in case you are wondering, which, after living 38 years in this city I'm pretty sure you aren't, workers comp in NO way COMPENSATES for the loss of life or the ability to support your family. So, either enjoy your safer than most city, or keep on this track, you'll see the results sooner than you may suspect. Just ask San Jose, cops are down, crime is up.
Posted by No More!, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:45 am
Taxpayers need to exercise their voting rights. This compensation package is ridiculus to say the least!! I am sure there are people willing and available to take on the job at a much less compensation. Lets try that!! No more union! Privatize!! BTW, I know tones of ex-San Jose policemen who are eager to work here in Palo Alto!!
Posted by what's the big deal?, a resident of the Esther Clark Park neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:49 am
If a police officer or other employee works more than required year after year, skipping his or her vacation days, etc., the employee deserves to be paid for the extra work. Apparently, instead of being paid for this extra work each year, Palo Alto employees have been required to essentially loan money to the city. When the city pays a "cash out" to a retiring employee, the city is simply repaying the loan. The only question is whether the implied interest rate is reasonable.
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside, on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:06 am
The corruption of our so-called "public servants" in conjunction with elected officials has brought us to this juncture. It is ridiculous.
The good news is that what cannot go on forever will come to an end. The bad news is that it will be met with deafening bleats of "what about the children" and "we must support our police / firemen" from self-interested cronies every step of the way.
Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:15 am
Total mass incompetence or even malfeasance on the part of cities, states and the federal government on this pension crap. There is no connection at all between reality and these numbers, but since a contact is a contract we the taxpayers are supposed to be stuck with this?
Another way we are ripped off. What happened to people saving their own money for their own retirement like 99.9% of everyone who works has to do.
These folks are and were paid good money, why was this necessary? Fairness and justice is just something that does not even come into consideration anymore in this country, state and city. This really make me mad.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:43 am
This is absurd. While it seems fair to allow some accumulation of sick leave/vacation, it shouldn't roll over forever. Makes not sense. These salaries are excessive by any standard. There are occupations with much higher fatality rates than either police or firefighters, so that argument just doesn't hold in justifying this level of compensation.
Please don't lump all public employees and public unions into one -- the rate of compensation, level of contribution to retirement, rate of retirement pay, and amount contributed to benefits varies greatly. Some public employees have not seen raises for years, some have been furloughed and/or taken pay cuts, many have been laid off. The focus should be on those employees who make NO contribution to retirement or health benefits and are paid salaries that are clear excessive. Excessive pay, practices that allow spiking of retirement pay, excessive disability retirements, and too-early retirements need to be addressed and would address many of the financial problems we now face.
Posted by anotherview, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:48 am
Re: "These employees also receive pensions (deferred salaries) linked to the highest year’s salary." Can anyone cite a reliable source as to whether the final year(s) payouts, bonus, and overtime are considered in pension calculations? My recollection is that someone (maybe Simitian) tried to pass a bill ending the practice (which did exist and even had a jargon name) but it failed presumably due to union lobbying?
The pension costs are not as simple as some present: employees do contribute a portion, but of course when they do retire then the city must pick up the additional shortfall whenever the CALPERS investment annual return falls below 7.75%, wherein lies the huge risk in the event of markets underperforming. I hope we could focus on paying employees just enough to attract qualified pools of applicants (how many apply for a firefighter job-I've heard hundreds do), which unions make it hard to accomplish, rather than the subjective "they get paid too much".
Posted by Peter Mueller, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:52 am
Police as well as firefighter, if fortunate, spend a working lifetime in one of the most dangerous occupations. They deal with a "customer" base that is more extremely variable, and therefore frought more than most other occupations with difficulties and mortal risks. They are in the main individuals who dedicate themselves to serve everyone in crisis as well as in routine regulation of our civil society.
Prior to blindly criticizing the value of bottom line numbers remunerating these wonderful people, let's find some perspective in compensation of employees in other professions and organizations at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of scales. For instance in industry, in finance and banking, in law, in small service businesses, in pharmaceutical companies, in medical companies like Kaiser or PAMF, in IT companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, etc, etc. Then let's return and determine if the political process has resulted in over compensation of crucial public employees.
In the meantime, thank you to all of you who have served us so faithfully.
Posted by Ugh! this is bad for everyone. Stafff and residents., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:55 am
I hope police and firefighters will try to look at this from the resident's persepctive. (I think that if any officer loses his or her life or is harmed in the line of duty, his or her family should be well compensated by the city--but that compensation should be extended on an as-needed basis if such harm should occur. It is a separate issue from annual salary/retirement benefits.)
Very few people in the private sector get to roll over vacation, sick days, etc. In the private sector, if you don't use them, you lose them. Now you are going to tell me that officers often get mandated to work more hours. Let me be very clear. This happens in the private sector. too. I think part of the problem is that public sector employees have a very unrealistic picture of whom they are working for. I can't tell you how many times the employee posts on this site have inmplied that all Palo Alto residents are rich. Average salaries do not reflect majority salaries. They are inflated by a small number of super rich.
My family struggles to get by with a salary and benefits that don't come close to what you make. We don't work less than you do. Our work is no less challenging. The outrage you hear is a result of very real inequity--and the apparent expectation that people who are less fortunate than you are expected to fund this aggregious mess created by former councils and union leaders.
Present employees can blame their union leaders for giving it all away to the present set of retirees. They greedily took everything for themselves and stole your opportunity for fair compensation because the package they negotiated will break the city's back. I am astonished that you are not furious. I would be. Vote them out, and get some leadership that will take care of YOU while giving thoughtful consideration to long-term budgets so that a sustainable plan can be created moving forward for your future colleagues. Don't shaft them as your predecessors shafted you.
> Can anyone cite a reliable source as to whether the final
> year(s) payouts, bonus, and overtime are considered in
> pension calculations?
Each government agency offers its own pension program, so the rules would change from Agency to Agency. Locally, the only credible source is the PA Human Resources Department. And it is my understanding that these rules change periodically.
> than the subjective "they get paid too much".
You are free to believe this, but the papers are full of objectively obtained data/reports on pension abuse and the unsustainablity of the current system.
Posted by Taxed Out, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm
Soon enough the city will have to fire everyone except the person coordinating the benefits for the all the retirees... Sounds like where Stockton is heading...
Idea: Stop the benefits and make all future city employees fund their benefits / retirement just like the rest of us. Self funded 401k, pay a % of your medical. Let the supply / demand market work. There are plenty of qualified folks that would be interested in these jobs.
Posted by Enough!, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm
Peter Mueller, you rock! Yes, LETS dissect the income of the bankers who made the bad loans to people who have lost their homes while the financial people are going back and forth between their multiple homes...several of those people are residing in .... wait for it ... <gasp> Palo Alto! Then pull up the comments bashing the police department when these same people's iPads are stolen and we have detectives who go out to a very dangerous situation and find not only the iPads, but 34 million dollars worth of meth. Meth being cooked in an apartment building that could blow up and kill many. Gee, I don't think they are worth the extra taxes at all, unless they recover my iPad!
Posted by Anthony, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm
Comparing civil servant pay to workers at Google or Microsoft, as Peter above attempts to do to justify ridiculous civil servant pay, is not valid. Google cannot hire enough highly qualified engineers -- there simply aren't enough of them. They go through years of post-high school education and must prove themselves smarter, more resourceful, and more capable than their peers before the Googles of the world will even look at them. As such, competition for their services is high and Google must pay a lot.
A firefighter, on the other hand, gets over 200K in total compensation for a job that involves a lot of downtime, little risk (its safer than just about all blue collar private sector work such as construction, farming, manufacturing, etc). This is why whenever there is an opening, there are hundreds of qualified candidates lined up hoping to get on the gravy train.
The public sector has spat in the face of the taxpaying public for too long now and I have a feeling the gravy train is headed for a crash. I'm so mad about all the waste that I've become a one-issue voter until the madness stops.
Posted by JT, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm
I'm appalled that Palo Alto Online/Weekly is printing the salaries of individual city employees. I think you got it right back in 2004 when you called the printing of such salaries voyeurism (Web Link). Now you've sunk to the level of those you've criticized in the past for their sensationalistic ways. I think you can get the point across by giving pay ranges for each position without providing private information that doesn't belong on the Internet. I realize that times must be tough for the Weekly. I got the letter in which you solicited for donations from the public. But lowering your standards to the level of "voyeurism" (your term, not mine) isn't going to improve your situation.
Posted by Double Dip, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm
All that compensation and only now do we have the chance to hire them back as "consultants" so they can double dip? Better act fast PA Government before we lose them to some other jurisdiction! Wait, that's right, they now make too much money not to work to bother consulting. At least with all that retirement pay they won't be competing to take some private sector person's position. Suckers. But first raise taxes Gov Brown!
Posted by Safe in Palo Alto, but questioning, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm
On the one hand, these officers deserve to be paid for their valor. On the other hand, the salaries seem to me what men and women would make in UNsafe and large places, like New York City, not Palo Alto.
It concerns me that city workers make so much money in retirement, and yet, there is not too much to see in terms of what's been done over the years regarding Palo Alto infrastructure, when they were working actively.
This is the "Year of Infrastructure". Yet, infrastructure is not a council priority. Look at the deferred maintenance all over Palo Alto, as compared to Mountain View, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, & further.
Two concerns I've had are:
1) Palo Alto needs government grants to do work that should have been done years ago from city funds - like Embarcadero & Cal Ave.
2) City workers that are now retired from Palo Alto, collecting $150K + in retirement, and for life, but "double-dip", holding jobs in other communities, full-time or as consultants, taking jobs away from other people that would love to have ONE income.
The retirees have two hefty incomes from multiple communities, and yet, what is there to show for it in the communities in which they served prior to retirement?
At least the police and fire department staff don't just push papers around. Or do they? I mean, as compared to New York City?
Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community, on Mar 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm
Why are you so concerned about the employees salaries and benefits when it is the City Council that approves their employees compensation. The City Council even approves its own compensation. Take a look at the Employer Contribution to Medical, Vision and Dental for the nine members of the City Council.
Posted by Miss K, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm
First of all. Its not the police depts. fault as it it YOU the voter. NO one is going to vote politician in that is NOT backed by the police department and guess what..........favors are in order. The Police dept should NOT be allowed to endorse anyone and if they do that politician has to excuse himself from any contract negotiations. The people you trust to make you safe use that to make them safe at your expense............Nice guys!
Posted by george , a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm
Some contributors to this blog have given opinions with no background knowledge. Mr. Martin has given us facts to review.
The Palo Alto fire dept. received over 500 applicants for openings recently. Its criteria for hiring are different than the police department's are and openings are filled more readily. The dept. responded to 14 residential structural fires last year; the number of calls for medical/rescue incidents was 4521. (Pages 28 and 29 of the City Auditor's "Service Efforts and Accomplishments for FY 2011".)
The police dept. may receive up to 100 applications to be hired, BUT less than 20 or so survive the initial review of their application After further tests and reviews, some survive, usually 3 or fewer, and are sent to the Police Academy for 8 months of training. If they graduate successfully, they will be on probation until they pass 3 to 4 months of in-house Field Officer training. So it may take more than a year after applying before a person is qualified to become a sworn officer and can work alone. The dept. is now badly under staffed because of retirements and stringent requirements for acceptance.
More than a year ago three officers were let go by San Jose and came to work for Palo Alto; they also had to pass the Field Officer process - which they did quickly because of their prior experience. They are now valued members of the force. A few months ago 3 more SJ officers came to Palo Alto; one was not accepted; the other two returned to SJ a couple of weeks ago when openings came up.
Substantial changes have been and are being made in the contracts of new Palo Alto government employees. Some work is now routinely out-sourced and more is being considered for the future. This alone will reduce retirement funding commitments which are a substantial reason for the budget mess we are in. See Mr. Martin's information.
Posted by Enough!, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm
Hey Miss K? Women die giving birth to children that they chose to bear. Cops, and firefighters, die protecting the lives of others. They do not get to pick and choose their calls for service.
Please, if you feel you do not need or will never be in need of police protection, send your name and address along with a notarized statement to the Palo Alto Police Department so they can know not to respond to your address and protect, if ever threatened, your entitled little life. That will leave more police presence to help the people like me, who truly appreciate that someone else will, (and actually has), protect me from someone who wishes to do me violence. Sad thing is, even if you did such a letter, the cops would have to respond to your aid anyway, because if they didn't, they could be sued, and in the case of people with attitudes such as yours, they will be.
Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park, on Mar 7, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In a nutshell, you have just read a description of what is wrong with California, why the school systems are decaying, why the entire state is broke. Not one of these people should ever have received that kind of compensation. $100K a year is a stretch even for the highest paid among them.
Anyone thinking of moving to California should pay close attention to these numbers. This is what you will be paying your ridiculously high taxes for, unless you are a beneficiary of Prop 13, which you won't be.
Posted by sammy, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 2:59 pm
police work dangerous,,but no more dangerous than the average person who may not have any weapons and certainly no authority to do anything especially if theyre not white or well off! you have 50 cop cars but 60 ,oo citizens who are responsible for their own life every step they take throughout the day. and most people dont make 6 figure income for their daily risks of daily life! pay me 100,000 for being an ''average citizen'' risking their life.
Posted by Proud to Serve, a resident of another community, on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm
The sick leave pay-out benefit was negotiated away in 1986. The last of the firefighters receiving that benefit will all be retired within the next 5 years.
It's not about how dangerous the job is statistically. It's about how safe the public servants make the community.
Stop by a firehouse and have a talk with the crews. You’ll find a group of people who are active, caring members of a community in which they often cannot afford to live (this is true of all city departments). These public servants help make your community the safe and desirable place that it is- and part of why you pay so much for the home that you live in.
The entire nation is suffering financially- we accept this reality and are on board attempting to share the burden of the budget crisis with other public service agencies. If we must give up pay and benefits like everyone else in America that’s ok. We have shown a willingness to play with the city to ease the stress the city is feeling financially.
We get it.
Our commitment to the community runs deep.
In order to be ready to serve our communities in the most effective manner many of us must train on our days off at our own expense - you could consider it service re-invested in the community. We are the ones at the gym, in the classroom, studying our every weakness. We attend to every detail. We work on our weaknesses and overcome them- to better serve the community.
Those of us that make the commitment do so willingly recognizing that the cities we work for are often willing to accept a lowest common denominator when it comes to a level of preparation to deliver service. We will not tolerate this. We train and prepare constantly to deliver an outstanding product.
Mayors and other government officials have very thoughtful and kind words they use to describe firefighters. In seemingly heart-felt speeches they refer to firefighters as heroes. They seem quite sincere in their view of our profession. We are humbled and flattered by these generous words.
We are not heroes.
We aren’t villains either.
These terms makes every one of us uncomfortable.
We are heroes no more than the police officer that puts on their shield every day and goes about their duties- standing between the bad guys and the average law-abiding citizen. We - like peace officers - are guardians of the community. Our greatest act of bravery took place when we accepted the honor and responsibility of protecting the citizens of each and every community we serve.
The current leadership in the highest levels of local and federal government doesn’t make any public employees feel of much value.
The job is to be ready. When there is an emergency we are the ones who show up say, “Stand behind me. We are here to make the bad stuff go away- we are here to make you safe. How can we help you?”
This we will continue to do without question- it is our oath.
Visit your neighborhood firehouse and ask a firefighter why 5 of them show up on a medical call to support a person whose heart isn’t beating. You might find that 5 aren’t enough. If we’re not out of the station on an emergency call, training ourselves to answer the next call, or performing life safety inspections we are more than happy to talk to you honestly about all of the services we provide.
We are thankful for the opportunity to serve a great city and it's citizens.
Posted by Really, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm
We have 15 opening right now, come on down.
Earlier posts are correct, we are lucky to hire one out of every hundred applicants.
Also lets remember, these high earners are the top 5% of the organization and manage a quarter of the city budget. The officers who make up the bluk of the organzation are well under the median incomes in Palo Alto and just accepted large cuts.
These folks are from an era that has come and gone.
Posted by JT, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm
Wayne, the state Controller doesn't identify employees by name, which is what the Weekly is doing today. Your comment is misleading. The Weekly called this practice of publishing names and salaries "voyeurism" and "sensationalism" in 2004, but now they're doing it themselves. I guess they're just desperate for the "pageviews".
Posted by Enough!, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm
@Steve C: What's REALLY wrong with California is all of the money that is going to support undocumented individuals who are in this country illegally. Most Palo Altans would know nothing of that side of things, since most are not in the 'system'. California is supposed to be broke, yet magically $40 million dollars was found to fund AB 130, the dream act, to put kids who are in this state illegally through college. Meanwhile, we have kids marching to Sacramento because the cost of tuition is being increased yearly. My own kids are struggling to pay for college yet my taxes are going to pay for people who are breaking the law every day residing here and utilizing our services. Of course, to say anything about that makes one a racist and so terribly un PC. If you are here illegally, you are entitled to more free services and health care than those born and raised in this country. I KNOW these things because I AM in the system, no health insurance etc, and I listen and watch and LEARN from the inside out. Go sit at Valley Medical urgent care someday, ALL DAY, and just listen to the people around you. You will be astonished at the encyclopedic knowledge they have of manipulating the system. Then follow them outside and see the newer cars they are driving, the expensive gear they are toting and then compare it with your own situation.
But why do that? It's so much easier to attack those who are here legally and who have paid into the system.
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside, on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm
Naturally, a guild system will try to make it difficult to enter the guild, in order to extract maximum benefits for those already present. So the fact that most applicants are turned away could very well be a symptom of the problem.
In order to understand if they are being turned away *with good reason*, rather than made up reasons for the purpose of restricting access to the golden trough supplied at taxpayer expense, we would have to look in detail at the job requirements. I am sure they are extensively obfuscated, so this would be quite tedious to do.
Posted by Vladimir Rusteykev, a resident of another community, on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm
You think the chief of police would accept such a subterfuge of an offer? The average dwelling space for hammer tossers is about 3 cubits by 70 dollars wide. We cannot sit idle while our city runs bankrupt in the street and you know the economy is struggling like an ocean of debt. I say we boycott the police despondent.
Posted by Perspective, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 4:23 pm
A Platoon Sergeant with over 18 years in the military, stationed in Afghanistan, makes less than 1/3 of the good Lieutenant's base pay. He might work a 48 hour shift and will never see a dime of overtime pay. He'll get about $30k in retirement. How many of Palo Alto's finest have actually taken a bullet, let alone had their legs blown off? PA has a good police force and I appreciate that, but let's keep things in perspective.
Posted by Joe, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm
To Perspective, I, WE TOTALLY appriciate the sacrafices you have made in Afganistan. No question about it. But, how the heck do you know what the men and women of the Palo Alto Police department have done? Have you worked 25-30 years in the trenches? I don't know...but I bet not. No, Palo Alto is nothing like the war zone of Afganistan, but please, before you judge too harshly. Go on a ride along on a friday night...or...just work every night from 7 pm till 6 in the morning when, nothing is going on...because it is Christmas eve...again. If you are a Lt, Captain, Major or higher in the military, you also do just fine as far as salary and benefits after "doing your 20." And, you...rightfully so, will "double dip" in another occupation.
As to double-dipping after retirement, it doesn't work that way. We are talking about government sector people retiring, and then being rehired into their old jobs at the same salary, or higher rates of pay. Military people are not going to be rehired into their jobs in the military. They are free to find another job, but usually ex-military people are not always welcome in the private sector, or their military skills are not all that compatible with civilian job requirements. Ex-military people are usually successful after retirement if they pick something that they have always wanted to do, and start from scratch.
Posted by DDee, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm
And yet, civil servant spouse, today, a new graduate entering the state dept has the right to earn "at least" the same as he or she earned in the private sector prior to entering. The son of a friend of mine - who has the necessary valley networking contacts obviously - has already taken the civil servant exam and passed, but has gotten himself a job at Google so that he can carry that salary and all the bennies over to his government job. It stinks, and it contributes to the undoing of the traditional separation between private and public sector work. People, who aspired to do well, went into the private sector, while people who aspired to do OK serving the commons and the public good (with the added gratitude of our citizenry now and then) went into the public sector.
We are like sheep or goats that will only react to what is right before us. When we should have been paying attention, and protesting or withholding our votes for unreasonable elected officials and city managers was back when these contracts were negotiated... not now. All those overly paid city, state and municipal executives who are still making very large bucks – all those high priced consultants brought in to negotiate with labor - entered us into these contracts, allowed for sick time and vacation time to accrue without limit (which is just plain silly and could cause irreconcilable budgets in itself).
However, nobody minded that such contracts were being written back when public workers were giving up their raises and cutting back on their benefits in exchange for a future payoff. Nobody minded that the base salaries for SOME jobs were being jacked up to “competitive market prices” and a total redefinition of what civil servant jobs had historically meant. Nobody coming out of college and getting those higher paying jobs minded that is, because face it, there are a whole lot of public employees who did get and still get the shaft salary-wise in our very illogical and unfair wage scales that hyper value position status over the value of the service provided. Nobody minded that the UC regents and executive staffers made more than successful CEOs back in the days of Silicon Valley illusion/delusion, or double dipped or were mostly political appointees instead of faculty who had worked their way up the ladder. Nobody minded because all you people who mind now and who could have protested and actually been heard were getting yours as well.
Why is it that NOBODY seriously considered denying the bonuses contracted before the crash by the wall street thieves, the banksters and corporate COO and CEO who ship American work offshore to maximize short term profit? Why are they still in line for six and seven figure bonuses despite having had to be bailed out or receiving government subsidies of one sort or another, yet EVERYBODY dumps on the workers who are simply getting what they negotiated?
Why is it that the totally bogus 401k plan idea which is essentially another way for an unaccountable wall street and the banks to gamble with the money people will need for old age is raised as the highest retirement plan to which a worker should aspire when every executive position (CEO, head pastor, politician or Maddoff wannabe) is attached to big defined benefit pension plans? I defy anyone to show how their individual contributions to society are of such massive value as to make them golden and untouchable in their old age, while the rest of us – who also have worked hard doing what we do and contributing to society – must take our chances and see what is left. According to your frames of thought, the best the rest of us should even aspire to is the hope that the oligarchs don’t get away with privatizing our social security, leaving us with nothing sure or secure at all, just a bunch of useless mortgage backed or equally dubious corporate IOU to trade for food while the broker who sold us the 401 or IRA basks in the sun on his or her private estate.
NOW, the employees (state, county, municipal, federal, city, whatever) are only collecting what they HAVE ALREADY EARNED and was promised IF they are lucky (because there are more places than not where games are being played to deprive them of already earned income). If you do not think they have earned it, back when you did not think they were earning it would have been the time to register a complaint.
You know why people are upset with public servants? It is because we are frustrated and they are the only group that we have any say or control over or awareness of. So how much damage are we doing to our financial recovery as a whole, to our own lives and communities by taking their jobs away or trying to make them work toward the lowest common denominator?
What are you saying that want: a police force like Mexico’s perhaps…. Or a garbage service like Delhi’s perhaps …. Or pensions and social security like … Greece (after the IMF extracts it dry)? Or perhaps one of those privatized fire departments in the Midwest who stood by and let a man’s house burn down over a $7 fee that he had not been able to pay.
Nice knowin ya now, cause none of you will want to live here then if that comes to pass.
For my part, thank you very much all you public servants who do your jobs and make our commons so easy to live in that we don’t even notice you. We don’t notice that there aren’t huge piles of burning garbage everywhere because there aren’t. We don’t notice that people are being shaken down at every turn just to do business as usual or being forced to shell out a huge bribe just to be somewhat safe in their own homes because they aren’t. We don’t notice the bodies of people wrapped in sheets and laid out along the curb after dying at home during the night because nobody came to the call for help, because someone does come. We don’t notice the long lines of fly infested patrons waiting at city hall to get a permit for something because we don’t have those long waits.
We don’t live on $2 a day here and our lives reflect it. So all you…. Out there, please stop treating our workforce as if they owe us more than they already give…. Alternatively, move to those places where you can have the satisfaction of feeling more worthy of a good life than your fellow citizen who ekes out an early death on $2 a day.
Posted by No More!, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm
No need to embarrass yourself by attacking me. Excuse my typo.
We can agree to disagree. Unfortunately, due to our country's economic outlook, all public unions will be forced to re-evaluate their benefit package. Privatization will be an attractive alternative for the taxpayers- whether you like it or not!
Posted by Joe, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm
Really? You think a retired police officer/fire fighter...manager whatever...can be hired back in the same retirement system...for the same job they were doing? Unless it is part time (less than 1/2 full time hours) that can't be done. I would have to echo what several folks have mentioned above. These big "payoffs" which people have retired with in the last couple of years...were NEGOTIATED by labor groups, approved by City Managers and then ratified by the City Counci, again, these sick leave pay off's were back in the early 1980's. People can be upset about it...but don't blame the employee. Nobody was holding a gun (or a fire hose) to the Council's head. Negotiations are exatctly that... negotiations. If the emplyee received a benefit, the most likely gave something else up at that time. These big "pay off's" are done. There are probably less than 10 current employees (out of 1000) who can "cash out" there sick leave (which is based on a formula...usually 2% times the number of years you have worked)...so it is certainly not hour for hour.
Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community, on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm
You keep posting links to the most biased and unresposible web pages here. You sensationalize the retirements of .5% of Calpers retires and depict them as the norm. How about a link to the independant actuarial report from Calpers?
Posted by Voter, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm
If CALPERS is so healthy, why not remove the backing of the taxpaying public in the event its returns are insufficient to pay the bloated pensions of today's civil servants?
That's one concession the "everything is OK" public union special interest crowd isn't offering up any time soon. Perhaps they'd be less reckless in their spiking and other irresponsible practices if they weren't guaranteed a taxpayer bailout when the trough runs empty.
Posted by lazlo, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:40 pm
Thanks to all employees who contributed 20/30/40 years of service to Palo Alto. Thanks for your service to our community and enjoy your well deserved retirement. Thanks to Keene and Klein for providing the incentive for the current exodus of dedicated employees who will surely enjoy no longer having to deal with this dysfunctional community. To the poster who provides continuous web links regarding public employees, please provide the web link for the monthly amount you receive for welfare or social security, as it would seem you have an overly generous amount of time to spend posting irreverent information that interests only you.
The resignation is due to the refusal of the California Public Employees Retirement System to exempt Danielson from a crucial rule. That rule prohibits Danielson, the retired city manager of Elk Grove, from working for a single employer for more than one year if he is to receive his pension.
By way of another example, there is a Business Manager working at the PAUSD who is drawing over $200K in retirement benefits, and has been rehired into his old job at a salary of about $180K a year. That comes to about $400K/year, which seems a lot for a person working in a school system's business office.
If you look on the City payroll, you will see some retired names appear here and there. This probably changes on a yearly basis, but it does happen here in PA.
> There are probably less than 10 current employees (out of 1000)
> who can "cash out" there sick leave
Only the HR Department could make such a claim and be believed. While the salary data shows "Cash-outs" by people who have retired, these statements do not provide any sense of people's accrued "benefits", which might be "cashed out" when they retire.
> but don't blame the employee.
The general thrust of the comments in this thread opposed to the continuation of the City’s lavish compensation program have been aimed at the City Council, and “the system”. Please take the time to reread these postings carefully. However, once it becomes clear that the City can not sustain these salaries—subsequent strikes, or labor actions, or violence directed towards residents, or City property by the various unions, and/or individuals, will cause us to shift the focus of our comments, and our concerns, towards the employees who have conducted themselves in unprofessional ways.
Posted by Lineman for the City, a resident of another community, on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:30 pm
I ask that you delete this portion of Wayne's last post "violence directed towards residents, or City property by the various unions, and/or individuals, will cause us to shift the focus of our comments, and our concerns, towards the employees who have conducted themselves in unprofessional ways."
Unless he can produce any facts that back up this statement it's just more of his libelous fear mongering.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm
> keep posting links to the most biased and unresposible web pages here.
And just what is a “biased” web-site? So far, I have posted links to the web-sites of the State of California, the City of San Jose, the San Jose Mercury News, the Sacramento Bee, and the US Military. The SJMN and the SacBee have requested information via the California Public Records Act (salary/benefit numbers) from the various governmental agencies, which have presumably provided an honest rendering of the salary/benefit data (meaning non-biased) and forwarded this data on to each of the requesting organizations (ie—the media).
So, what is “biased” about these government, and media sites? It is my belief that all of this data is truthful, and therefore can not be viewed as “biased”, other than by someone who does not want the public to know what the truth is concerning public sector salaries.
As to the Pension Data, this was requested via Public Records Requests from CalPERS, CalSTRS and the UC system, legally. Again, it is believed that each of the respondents to the Public Records Requests provided an honest accounting of the salary/benefits data. It is also believed that the various sites displaying this data are displaying the data as received—without any “corruption”, or “biasing”.
The issue from my point-of-view concerns the correctness of the data. “Bias” seems to be a political term, used herein to discredit the data provided by CalPERS, CalSTRS and the UC system. If there are errors in the handling of the data, then this is something people might need to know about. So far, there have been no such claims.
There are groups in California, such as “Californians for Pension Reform” that are actively attempting to reform the Pension System. Their concerns are generally laid out along lines of the looming liability (or debt) that the pension system has foisted on all levels of government in the US. It is true that there is no way to know just how much debt is outstanding, but the estimates put that debt in the $3T to $5T (and growing). Nationally, and at least $500B here in California. This debt is on top of the $100T to $200T liabilities that the Federal Government has likely amassed via its social network promises that must be paid by higher taxes on our children and grandchildren.
> You sensationalize the retirements of .5% of Calpers retires and
> depict them as the norm.
About ten years ago, the Palo Alto Daily News started printing salaries of City employees. There were fewer than 100 at the time who were making more than $100K/year. Now, ten years later, there are over 400 people making more than $100K, and a goodly number soon to join them. When retirement comes for the current employees, it is hard to believe that most will not be seeing exit salaries at $90K and up. The issue is not the current cohort of retirees who are said to be making, on average, about $35K in pension payouts, but this next cohort that will be drawing between $100K and $200K, on average. What you characterize as a .5% problem is about to become a 50%-60% problem.
That is the problem that needs to be discussed, and solved--whether you want to acknowledge it, or not.
By the way, there is nothing “biased” about the truth.
Posted by george, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm
Mr. Davis. Whatever gave you the idea that the Palo Alto or any police dept. was a guild - or the fire dept. for that matter? You imply that the accepted applicants are kept low to maintain some sort of benefit for those in service. Nothing could be further from the truth. The dept. is understaffed and is desperately trying to find qualified recruits. Overtime gets old very soon.
Citizens should be glad that recruits must meet high standards. They handle dozens of different interactions with the public that few of us could cope with. The training they receive is very demanding to do the job successfully.
Besides the expected high physical standards, they must have as a minimum a high school diploma (most have 2 or more years of college)and have the ability to remain cool under great stress. Some of that stress comes from people who berate them for doing their job, e.g. giving an individual a citation he/she has earned. But the most dangerous part is stopping fights, chasing and capturing armed suspects, and generally be willing to wade into a situation you or I wouldn't want to tackle. The standards can't be lowered simply to get warm bodies.
Go to the police dept. and ask to see some of the 149 unsolicited commendations from citizens that officers received during FY 2011. They cover a wide range of incidents that required a cool head and empathy for the person(s) in trouble. You are lucky to be in an area where we have such officers.
We have seen an inordinate amount of violence in California, from time-to-time. Most recently, the so-called "Occupy xx" movements have made a mess of downtown Oakland, and San Francisco is usually a target for various street protests and the like.
In 1974 the Washington Post was subject to a labor action. The strike started at 12:00AM. Within a few minutes, the press-room was on fire, and no one in the Union seem to know anything about the fire, nor was anyone ever charged with arson.
While there are no pending labor actions against the City at this time, it is silly to not recognize that violence and labor actions often go hand-in-hand--and can happen here in Palo Alto.
Posted by Don, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:57 pm
Mr. Martin. You are really reaching for it to go back a couple of generations to support your contentions about labor unions. And I'm not sure the recent Occupy protests were union inspired or supported. In fact union members lost a lot time and money when Occupiers shut down the Port of Alameda.
Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm
If the Palo Alto Police and Fire Department are to be paid handsome salaries because they are willing to put their lives on the line and take a bullet, then what of the great veterans of our country whose lives are at far greater risk.
This is a specious argument.
Salaries are determined by supply and demand. And that's as it should be. Unfortunately, union lobbying and lack of political spine (fear of unions) is what has caused these huge inflated salaries. And yes, we'll be paying for pension spiking for decades to come!
Remeber Judge Cordell, who gave and gave and gave to the unions while she was on the City Council.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:15 pm
> union violence
I do not want to discuss this in this thread. It is a distraction to the issues of compensation and pensions.
However, union violence is not something that is a "rare historic event". At least one group (National Institute for Labor Relations Research) claims: "Since 1975, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research has collected more than 9,000 reports of union violence."
If you grew up in Palo Alto, you might not have ever seen union violence first hand. If you grew up in an area where manufacturing industries dot the landscape, then you probably have seen union violence--up close and personal.
Posted by Anon the1st, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2012 at 1:28 am
Everyone is griping about how much the PD employees make, sure I am a PA citizen just like *Most* of you on this forum. Who do you call when you need help? The police right? At that point in time you do not worry how much the person that shows up to help you makes.
I used to work for this city and now I am working for another town which is in the process of outsourcing its police services. Mike Denson solved the Fitzhugh case and many more. There are several criminals behind bars because of him as well as other people that are retiring soon. I have bittersweet feelings about the PD in Palo Alto, but at the same time, the people that are retiring have more than earned their money and retirement benefits.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2012 at 10:56 am
I'm not concerned about how much the city's hourly employees make. It is the cost of the medical and pensions that concerns me. We should all be concern about the burden it is putting on our city. These types of payouts can't go on.
Posted by Nick, a resident of another community, on Mar 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm
For $400k, you could easily hire 2-3 officers and have a safer city, including a safer situation for officers. (and Palo Alto is already very safe to be an officer). That said, I think everyone agrees that the police do a difficult job, and should be paid well -- but it's the big payouts, pensions, and pension spiking that's crushing the city and causing an unsafe environment for citizens and police.
It's also wrong to make commitments for 30 years down the line -- why put that burden on future generations for services rendered today?
So simple solutions:
1) Don't do vacation/sick payouts -- sounds like this has been solved?
2) Eliminate any tax-payer support for existing pensions -- unions insist that the plans are solvent, yet taxpayers end up on the hook. If they're really solvent, then don't require taxpayers to make up shortfalls.
3) Eliminate pensions for new hires -- they can save for their own retirement just like everyone else. Give them a 10% raise to be more competitive.
4) Have an outside group review hiring practices and make sure PD isn't being too picky about hires, just to boost their existing value.
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside, on Mar 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm
Nick, your proposals are eminently sensible and put the citizens' interests first. There is no doubt whatsoever, then, that they would be opposed to the maximum extent possible by our "public servants".
Posted by randy albin, a resident of Mountain View, on Mar 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm
what about the baby-boomers who grew up in palo alto? maybe way back when the school district should have informed its graduates that they would be facing astronomical cost of living in the bay area. why wouldn't people be up in arms about all of this?
Posted by Safe in Palo Alto, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm
I'm grateful for Wayne Martin's detailed posts! Thanks to editors for allowing all that's being written to remain. Many others opinions are helpful too. Great dialog.
So how about asking Mr. Martin to work as a reporter at the Weekly? One caveat -- he'd have to have free rein to report news, without being censored. That would be great for the community! Finally, accountability, transparence, and the facts! I love this!
Posted by Taxed Out, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2012 at 2:34 pm
Robin you do not have to worry about voting for additional government revenue. The city has already found ways of leveraging "fees' to increase revenue. ( read the thread on trash rate hikes ) We will soon have a monthly "street sweeping fee", a recycling fee. I would not be surprised to get a tree pruning fee, a changing city pole light fee, etc... And by the way, you can't opt out.. So it is in effect a TAX that you did not approve...
Posted by CPR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm
There is so much wrong here it's difficult to know where to start. I guess I'll jump in with why is a Police Lieutenant paid 195K in the first place? Or why is a Lieutenant even paid 170K which, according to the state controller’s database, is the top step salary in PA (not including overtime pay). I don’t want to single anyone out so I’ll write in general terms. Before I get started does anybody know anybody that makes a salary of 170K that gets paid overtime?
The way Palo Alto has structured these employee contracts the city pays both the employer contribution (31% of payroll) and the employee contribution (9% of payroll). I guess it’s a good deal if you can get it and I‘m sure the take home pay is exceptional when you don‘t have to contribute to either social security or your own pension. So I guess pension costs are 40% of salary so this 170K individual has (170 * .4) 68K contributed to CalPERS by the taxpayers. That brings his cost to 238K before adding in medical benefits, retiree medical benefits cost, disability & workers comp insurance, and a few other things
But the PA city council and safety unions took this arrangement a step further by allowing the safety unions to include the 9% pension contribution that taxpayers paid on behalf of the employees - and then purchased an “optional” CalPERS benefit that allows the employees to count the 9% city/taxpayers pay on their behalf as additional income thereby increasing the employee annual pension by the same 9% (at a taxpayer cost of an additional 5% of payroll with most of that cost deferred and spread over a 20 year period).
Why is this important and how does it work?
It is important because what most people consider a pension that pays 90% is actually a pension that pays 98% of final salary, at increased taxpayer cost. It works like this:
Lieutenant makes 170K in highest 12 months compensation for 30 years service. Most people would figure he receives 3% per year for 30 years or 90% of pensionable salary which would equate to 170K * .90 = 153,000 (a first year pension before annual COLA adjustments of 2%. Here is how the current arrangement works:
Lieutenant makes 170K in highest 12 months compensation for 30 years service. He is then allowed to add the 9% the taxpayers/city pay on his behalf to his final salary. His new highest 12 month compensation grows: 170K * (1+.09) = $185,300. This is the number that is multiplied by 90% and the pension payout for this person that earned 170K is………………. $166,770. $166,770 divided by $170,000 = 98.1%.
There is much more wrong with how things are calculated by I’ll save that for later.
Why have taxpayers agreed to pay anyone 98.1% of their salary in retirement, bloated or otherwise, if you only need 65-75 of employment income during retirement?
Are people aware the under funded pension liability has grown to over 200 million in a few short years? What is the unfunded liability for retiree health care?
Posted by Just another taxpayer, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm
Mr. Wayne Martin for mayor!
Your postings with facts are very helpful. For those that deflect the matter with sympathy to uniformed public servant, that is a cliche liberal tactic. We are frustrated with the system and merely voicing them int this forum. Nobody is making any personal attack to these people that served us over the years.
But 90K for a street sweeper... That's more than what my wife makes in private sector. Honey, I think I found you a new job~
Posted by Army Vet, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm
I'm a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel. I make about 75k in retirement after 30 years which is 75% of my original salary. That is the cap. I could not cash in more than 75 days of leave.
Meanwhile, my wife is in public education and got into administration. When she retires in another 10 years she will receive 125K!
Am I pleased? Well I was shocked at first. And then I stopped saving for retirement and started directing the money over to my kids. Together we will make about 200k in retirement and that's on top of the almost 1 million I've got saved up in stocks and mutual funds with a fully paid home and health insurance for life.
But when I think of state employees making close 200k all on there own I just shake my head. That type of arrangement was brought about by greed in motion. We've been fooled all along.
Posted by Merle, a resident of another community, on Mar 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm
Sounds like a bunch of jealous winers. These employees are professionals, many with advanced degrees. They got into a good career at the right time and now all you complainers are targeting because They are public servants. I see arrogance from these posters because you believe city workers are beneath you. Sorry if your job sucks, plenty of local private sector companies issuing millions in stock options, sorry you can't get one of those either. Glass houses my friends.
Posted by CPR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2012 at 7:02 pm
So how did PD employees fair during the worse market downturn since the great recession:
2007: 3.5% COLA wage increase plus a "market adjustment" of an additional 4%. Total wage increase of 7.5%
2008: 3.5% COLA wage increase plus a "market adjustment" of an additional 5%. Total wage increase of 8.5%.
2009: 3.5% COLA wage increase plus a "market adjustment" of an additional 2.5%. Yotal wage increase of 6%.
That is a 24 PERCENT WAGE INCREASE during the great recession.
There are many employees that also received annual 5% step increases during the same period which amounted to a financial bonanza for public union employees during a period of economic decline for many in the private sector.
While pension costs are increasing to cover the guaranteed pensions and the CalPERS taxpayer guaranteed 7.75 rate of return the governor is asking for higher taxes and the city is increasing fees to cover the pension costs of a few at the expense of many (kind of like a pyramid). I think most taxpayers would would prefer to put a few extra bucks away for their own non-guaranteed retirement that wont happen anywhere near the age of 50 or 55.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 8, 2012 at 7:08 pm
And you, Merle, sound like just another entitled bureaucrat arrogantly belittling the taxpaying, value-creating private sector that pars your salary and funds the outrageous benefits that are bankrupting our future.
The work output of the underproductive, bloated public sector is certainly not worth mortgaging our future for.
Posted by new downtownnorth, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 6:58 am
Enough, if you are really a public service employee and if your supervisor is doing her/his jobthe supervisor will ask that your IPO be verified so that you can be properly dismissed. To say that you would not do your job if you knew the identity of someone who disagrees with you.
This what you said (above):
"Please, if you feel you do not need or will never be in need of police protection, send your name and address along with a notarized statement to the Palo Alto Police Department so they can know not to respond to your address and protect, if ever threatened, your entitled little life."
Where is you sense of professional demeanor for which we are supposedly paying so handsomely? Should we feel safe if we criticize you? Is your salary a reflexion of your professional conduct or is it robbery for a ramson? You sound more like a member of organized crime demanding protection money than a public employee...
Posted by Tired of all the Straw Man Arguments, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 7:51 am
New Downtownnorth, please don't make up facts. Either your reading comprehension is poor or you are so colored by your view point you are making up arguments. They did not claim to be an officer. Just because some of us support officers, does not mean that we ARE officers. An officer would never refuse to help you because you disagree with them. They deal with all kinds of idiots, people insulting them, etc. every time they put on their uniform and are able to maintain their professionalism.
By the way, just to keep everything clear, I'm not an officer either.
Posted by Safer, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 8:37 am
If you want a safe community you hire good people. If you want good people that will work their career here you need to give them the best compensation available. It is easy to bash on the public sector. What needs to be done is for the unions and city leaders work this out among themselves to lower compensation in the future. Unfortunately, what is rarely stated is that the cost of healthcare for all of us (public or private sector) has skyrocketed which in turn effects everything. People are living longer and the cost for retirement payouts for the compensation is nothing compared to how much a business or government pays out to retirees for healthcare. In the past public safety officers were not expected to live more than a few years after retirement. Now they live thirty to forty years. The real bashing should be on the cost of healthcare in this country. Lastly, I am glad we have quality public safety members in Palo Alto that have kept me safe and also followup on a small lead for a small case to get one of the biggest drug bust in United States history. Thank you PAPD. Keep it up. Thank you PAFD for the medical assist to my family when a drunk driver hit us. Thank you. Thank You. Thank You.
Posted by Taxpaying Public, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:49 am
This article sums up the problem perfectly. 33% of the population, the private sector taxpayers, are saddled with supporting the 46% that pay no taxes, and the 20% that work for the government, who's interests are aligned with the non-taxpayers (as net consumers, they want higher taxes to enlarge their trough).
It's purely unsustainable. The unions are ignorant if they think their benefits will survive intact after the coming wave of municipal bankruptcies. Vallejo already went. Stockton is next. San Jose and San Diego might not be far behind, especially with the San Jose public unions fighting to keep the voters from getting to vote on meaningful pension reform.
And to the poster above, overpaying for services means that we derive less service for the tax dollars we commit. An overpaid officer is not twice as effective as two paid at market rate. In fact, when services (not practical for police, but workable for just about every other government position) are outsourced, the private sector workers who replace the bureaucrats will outperform because unlike the public bureaucrats they are replacing, they are not accustomed to near 100% job security regardless of performance, as most of our unionized bureaucrats are.
Posted by vote!, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:59 am
I am truly sorry that some are taking some of our posts as criticisms of PA police officers. That is not my intention, but we have to deal with a bloated, inefficient, poorly-managed and structured government at ALL levels. This includes a whole raft of public employees. This is just reality. Please read my post above about Stockton. It is just unsustainable and with Democrats controlling the CA state legislature and governor's office, we now have a situation whereby even if a city like Stockton has to declare bankruptcy (obviously bad for ALL residents there), then the public unions have gotten a new law passed "...aimed at protecting public employee contracts..." The Daily News, March 1, 2012, p.A6.
This is in complete contrast to taxpayers in the private business world, wherein we have to adjust to business or economic reality conditions including at will employment (often); lack of raises; "tightening our belts" from time to time and no COLA raises, etc.
When economic times ARE good I am not objecting to union negotiations pointing that out and requesting raises or COLA increases or better benefits; but when there are BAD times it is virtually impossible to make any meaningful adjustment to bring a government entity (city or whatever) into economic balance! Instead we're just supposed to raise taxes.
I urge you to follow local, state, and national journalism and vote!
Posted by we do vote, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 11:04 am
"I urge you to follow local, state, and national journalism and vote!"
We have, thank you and will continue to do so. All these strange accusations that we don't know what's going on, and we didn't elect the officials we have in place making decisions on our behalf. We do read, we do vote and we have the officials WE elected.
All those accusations from the fringe that aren't getting "their" way.
We did vote. Live with it. We will also vote again. Thanks for the reminder.
Posted by This is To CPR, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm
You obviously have no clue what has been occurring in the police department as you referecne the 24% increase back in 2007.
Here are the facts. The Palo Alto Police officers were at the bottom of the survey list fo comparable Cities in 2006. we had over 15 vacancies and people were fleeing the department for other agencies.
The salary increase you mention allowed us to get back to the middle of the grouping over time and bring some of our departed employees back. In the end the increases saved the City money as it avoided what is a tremendous cost to hire and train new officers.
You really should be informed when you speak of the issues. Throwing numbers around is meaningless unless they are in context.
The reason the City hasn't made even more cuts to the police department is they know we are again down on positions and we have to be competative with other agencioes.
It should be apparently obvious to anyone what a statement it makes when three employees jump our ship to go back to San Jose for a ride on the Titanic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Civitas, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm
There just has to be a MINIMUM 50% wage and retirement benefits premium to compensate all those long-suffering municipal employees who have to put up with so many spoiled, whiney, self-important Palo Alto residents day after day.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community, on Mar 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm
When reading many of the comments here, Palo Alto seems like a horrible community of selfish rich people. A real snake pit of viciousness...and this website encourages it by ignoring actual news and creating/resurrecting stories like this one.
Palo Alto city workers -- especially the police and fire personnel -- are heroes for what they do professionally (the weekly fire, crime and incident reports document this) AND JUST FOR ENDURING THIS NONSENSE FROM MANY OF THE CITIZENS.
To those citizens: Lower your blood pressure and return peace to Palo Alto by taking your obscene real estate profits (especially since Facebook has inflated them even more) and move to a lower cost area? Wasilla?
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside, on Mar 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm
There's nothing selfish about not wanting to be ripped off. On the contrary, what we are observing is disgraceful selfishness from our so-called "public servants" and their paid-for lapdogs in office, as they help themselves to taxpayers' wealth.
I support fair compensation for public safety officials and others in government. What we have here is about the furthest thing from that.
Posted by Fed Up Taxpayer, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm
I work 70 hour weeks, create economic value (GDP growth), pay my taxes, and am fully accountable for my productivity or my business will fail.
The outrage directed toward absolutely unreasonable public sector compensation and benefits is completely understandable and justified. It goes beyond not wanting to be ripped off. The ever expanding, bloated, overpaid public sector has reached such mass that if unchecked it will topple the most prosperous economy in history. The sense of entitlement to these benefits and contempt for the taxpayers who provide them shown by our public sector and their defenders on this board is the epitome of selfish.
Posted by Jake, a resident of another community, on Mar 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm
Of course the paper does not list any details other than dolar amounts or how the total was figured. Idea, how about listing the number of hours worked by those employee's listed? or their hourly wage so we can figure it out ourselves? If the City had vacant positions and chose to fill them by having overtime workers cover those positions than the City should be explaining that fact.
The City wants the public to be outraged by those figures, so they can use it against the workers at contract time.
The number of hours worked is a HUGE part of the issue and that information should be listed as well, but the paper also would not get the shock value they seek I'm sure.
Call me crazy but somebody working 90-100 hour weeks at $30.00 to $45.00 an hour is going to make a lot of money over the course of a year.
CALPERS also does not allow overtime earnings to be used in figuring pension amounts. Payout of accumulated vacation and sick leave also does not count towards pension amount.
If someone was told when they were hired that they would get paid out for unused vacation and sick leave when they retired then I don't see the foul? 25-35 years of service will add up to some hours of unused time. The City offered the benefit in many cases instead of pay raises through the years so now when it comes to honoring their agreement they complain about the costs. They and the workers agreed on the benefit, taking away the benefit now is really not fair to those who passed on a pay raise and instead took a benefit down the road.
Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm
Jake rants "Call me crazy but somebody working 90-100 hour weeks at $30.00 to $45.00 an hour is going to make a lot of money over the course of a year."
Very few folks can actually "work" 100 hours a week and be effective. PA ff's may "work" the system to get paid for 100 hrs a week but most of that time will have been spent sleeping and shopping.
Fortunately the citizens have caught on to the boondoggle and are beginning to fix the problem. Removing binding arbitration was the first step. Hopefully SJ is successful in restructuring their pension system and other cities will follow. Ultimately we should exclude collective bargaining from government employee wage negotiations. If they don't like the offer, move on and we'll ire some one who wants a job
Posted by City Employee, a resident of another community, on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm
There is no spiking as you say. Overtime, vacation and sick leave payouts do not add to a persons pension. Pensions are base on the highest year of the last three years. The city uses the 3 at 50 caulation. For example: if a employee retires at age 50, with 22 years of employment, the caulation would be 3 x 22 = 66. So this employee would get 66 % of his/hers base salary for life. So for someone making $100k base salary per year, that would be $66k per year for their pension.
Posted by Nick, a resident of another community, on Mar 10, 2012 at 8:07 am
City Employee -- did you click on the link with the compensation data? There are officers making >$200k (e.g. Mark Venable has a base salary of $210,279.70).
I'm not familiar with the plan to know if they use the "spiked" comp figure (I know some communities do) vs. the base, but either way it's at minimum $190k/year in pension, which is a cost of nearly $5M in current value (an equivalent annuity cost).
The base salaries are extremely high, but that's far less of a problem than these ridiculous pension payouts and vacation/sick payouts. We could have many more qualified officers (and thus a safer city, including for the officers on duty) by eliminating the pensions.
Posted by Phil, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2012 at 8:47 am
Nick and John, it's rhetoric like this that unfortunately drives these conversations to a fever pitch. The Mark Venable you speak of was a police captain not an officer. His position on the police department would be a high, upper management job, similar to a vice president of a corporation. Palo Alto PD has just two captain positions. Officers in Palo Alto comprise the majority of the force, and make far less in compensation. Statistics also show that less than 8% of any officer throughout the state ever reaches their full pension status. The majority retire prior to achieving the maximum benefit, or cannot continue working due to physical or stress related issues.
Also, the sick leave cash outs do not and never have been calculated into the retirement formula. That benefit was negotiated out of their labor contract in the early 80's. Only a few veteran officers who were hired before then are even eligible.
I also believe that collectively this discussion can be continued without the cheap shots and disrespectful comments directed at our public safety personnel. There task is more difficult, dangerous, and challenging than most Palo Altans would care to think about it. Go on a few ride-alongs and you'll be surprised at what goes on around us.
Don't forget that the police association, unlike the fire department union, has worked with the city without the adversarial position. They deferred contractual pay increases and made voluntary concessions without creating obstacles or ballot measures. I also wish to remind everyone that these public safety labor contracts were all negotiated and approved publicly for everyone to see, just like how their salaries are posted in the newspapers. When the dot com and business world was booming I don't recall hearing any complaints. I'm sure many of the naysayers on this board never looked at the police and fire profession back then and said to themselves, now there is a job where I can make a lot of money and be set for life. No, I doubt it, even if one did possess the qualifications. Fact is I don't believe that many people that choose that life did so because it was lucrative. Come on, no one became a police officer or a firefighter to get rich. Are you kidding? They did because it was a calling and something they were dedicated to. Again, we can work toward looking for financial solutions during difficult times, and that can be done without disrespecting the people who do the job.
Posted by Fed Up Taxpayer, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2012 at 9:39 am
I'm tired of hearing about the "hero premium" to justify six figure salaries and pensions starting at 50 for our firefighters especially. The job is statistically extremely safe. No PA firefighter has ever been killed in the line of duty, and the rate of deaths nationwide is below that of, manufacturing, construction, farming, mining, and most blue collar private sector jobs. The statistics are clear that very little firefighting is even done anymore, yet the risk of the 3-4 house fires per year in PA is supposed to justify paying a huge risk premium?
Soldiers in the military, in contrast, get less than 1/3rd what a PA firefighter gets, in exchange for spending years in-country under extreme stress at great risk of grievous bodily harm and death. No wonder there are hundreds of applicants for every opening. If that's not a sign of overpaying (and taxpayers getting ripped off) than I don't know what is. That in and of itself tells the story. The tax revenue does not belong to the city it belongs to us, and we're completely justified in wanting our money to be spent responsibly.
Posted by Did Not know the truth about public servants resident, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2012 at 11:04 am
Sammy, those lazy fire fighters sleep for 10-12 hours a day? Wow, that is more than I get at home. Shoot, maybe I should become a Palo Alto fire fighter so that I can catch up on the zzzz's. I thought that they would be lucky to get 6 hours at a time, with all the medical interruptions and other emergencies. Come to think of it, when I brought my daughter home from the NICU with monitors, the hospital gave me a piece of paper to drop off at the local fire station, letting them know that a high risk patient was in the neighborhood. I didn't realize that they would come only after a full 12 hour sleep!
And I didn't realize that times had changed so that we do not need the trucks anymore, as only a few homes catch fire now and then. I thought maybe they used them at car accidents, car fires, and oh yeah, aren't fire men the ones who handle chemical spills and clean up? I guess we could just give them brooms (with very long handles, of course) to carry around. Who carries around the jaws of life to pry people out of crushed cars? Again, maybe they just need to carry around a jack that would fit in a the trunk?
As far as them enjoying life in Palo Alto on our dime, I find that equally disgusting. I don't think any of them live in Palo Alto, but shoot, they probably look at that time away from their families as a vacation at their frat party house. Never mind the time in training and maintaining their (now I know thanks to Sammy, highly unused) emergency equipment. Shoot, who cares about being home for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Halloween? After all, they are USING tax payers dollars to go out on shop?! The nerve. They actually pay sales tax, if they buy non food items, thus using our tax dollars to pay more taxes, isn't that some kind of illegal shifting of public funds without prior voter approval?
I'm sure the families of the firemen don't mind them being gone for a large portion of the week either. The kids probably don't mind dad or mom isn't there to tuck them in at night or attend school functions because they know their parent is making big money by partying it up at the fire house. I, for one, always considered firemen/policemen to be middle class, but you guys have given me quite the education. I will now be looking for our rolling in bank, living the large life public servants we are funding.
Shame on you Sammy, for being so quick to criticize, while being so unknowledgeable about the sacrifices our public servants make. YOU need to wake-up.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2012 at 11:14 am
To Did Not know the truth,
Give me a break! If the fire job is so demanding on families, then why do so many applied for very few positions!? Oh, and there so busy! I see them taking long coffee breaks at Starbucks. I see them walking around, talking on their cell phones at Cost-co and Safeway. I even see them at night, driving up and down the University. Ya, real tough job.
Posted by Did Not know the truth about public servants resident, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2012 at 11:48 am
Marvin, so you are telling me they go cruising on tax payer money too?! and with these high gas prices. Shame! And I thought the increase risk FF's face to cancer was due to the exposure of hazardous chemicals. Now I know that it is due to the extra time they have to hold their cell phones close to their heads and talk while at Costco. Shoot, I guess the 2006 study below, by the University of Cincinnati, just didn't consider that factor.
"The researchers found, for example, that firefighters are twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and have significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer than non-firefighters. The researchers also confirmed previous findings that firefighters are at greater risk for multiple myeloma."
Posted by Asking questions is not "criticism", a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm
@ Vote!, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, who wrote on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:59 am-
"I am truly sorry that some are taking some of our posts as criticisms of PA police officers."*************************
My reflection about the above statement:
This is the problem in Palo Alto. Some residents rant, based on few facts - which is unreasonable. But when someone poses a question, asking for FACTS, such as that of "Vote!", others get defensive about it, and call it "criticism". It is not criticism.
The lack of good data provided by the City, the place responsible for being upfront, transparent and accountable to residents, results in residents battling each other with heated words on blogs and in real life. It does not have to be this way.
The lack of investigative reporting that residents should have, also does not help to build trust in the City. Like The Weekly, that often lets the City off the hook, perhaps because of the City's big advertising budget for the Weekly to print the council agendas? Is it not $35,000 a year, making the City the Weekly's largest advertiser? I hope that comment is not edited out, because more residents than just me wonder about the connection between the City and the PA Weekly, and how reliable the news really is.
So when will someone in the City Manager's office, or City Council wake up, and recognize the dysfunction that has existed for the past several years? This needs fixing. Adults ought to be able to have constructive, open conversations with each other, respectful of differing opinions, and without coming to blog blows, needing their comments censored by editors.
This is just plain old good conflict resolution skills - Palo Alto officials need some, in order for it to ripple down to residents, and create trust.
To: Vote! = please keep asking your excellent questions, and expecting your valid concerns to be addressed. You, and most of the others that are merely entering into a discussion here, were in no way critical. I applaud your interest in the community.
Posted by Fed Up Taxpayer, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm
"So Proud" above is repeating an economic mistruth that public sector unions love to perpetuate: that overpaying a worker by 200% makes him twice as effective as one paid at market rate.
"So lower the package, reduce the number of folks applying. Let the best go look for jobs elsewhere or in another field. Settle for second best or worse."
This is incorrect. If there are currently 500 applicants for every job, and the city lowers the compensation by 50% and the number goes down to 50, the quality of the hire will be virtually and technically identical, and even if we assume the worst and stipulate that the best of 50 hire is is a few % less effective than the best-of-500 hire, the city could simply hire 11 of them instead of 10 (for now 55% of the old cost) and more than cover the difference.
After all, even with paying front line soldiers 33% what PA firefighters make, we can field a fully qualified, effective all-vounteer army with the candidates that enlist at that rate.
Posted by CPR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm
“Posted by This is To CPR,
You obviously have no clue what has been occurring in the police department as you referecne the 24% increase back in 2007.…. Here are the facts. The Palo Alto Police officers were at the bottom of the survey list fo comparable Cities in 2006. we had over 15 vacancies and people were fleeing the department for other agencies….The salary increase you mention allowed us to get back to the middle… you really should be informed when you speak of the issues. Throwing numbers around is meaningless unless they are in context…..The reason the City hasn't made even more cuts to the police department is they know we are again down on positions and we have to be competative with other agencioes…..It should be apparently obvious to anyone what a statement it makes when three employees jump our ship to go back to San Jose for a ride on the Titanic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Maybe timing is everything and the PPOA benefited from signing a contract just prior to the great recession. But while the department was receiving 24% raises over a three year period (I guess 4 years including the deferral and contract extension) other cities were adjusting compensation downward. Now maybe you are on the high end?
((Here are the facts. The Palo Alto Police officers were at the bottom of the survey list fo comparable Cities in 2006. we had over 15 vacancies and people were fleeing the department for other agencies.))
There are many reasons why people leave jobs and throwing this kind of money at the problem is short sighted, in my view anyway. I’m not saying that one of those reasons wasn’t compensation but other reasons could be proximity to their home, change of career, concerns about management, the 4-11 shifts PA runs probably doesn’t work for everyone, or a host of other things. The market for PD is also substantially different now compared to 2006.
As far as the SJ officers heading home the unions and agencies have been assisting each other to find jobs for displaced workers with the expectation the officers would return when positioned opened up due to retirement. Cities have been keeping displaced PD employees on reserve status in order to bring them back without having to go through background checks again. I guess it doesn’t mean they have to go back but I assume many have homes in San Jose and it is more convenient.
Calling San Jose the Titanic also misses the mark. If you understood the differences in the structure of the two plans, SJ pension plan vs. CalPERS, you would know they are only facing reality sooner we are. CalPERS is just financing their unfunded liabilities over an excessive/extended period of time - many employees will have retired and died before the cost of their pensions are paid for (under the CalPERS plan).
((The reason the City hasn't made even more cuts to the police department is they know we are again down on positions and we have to be competative with other agencioes.))
Says who? Eighty percent of California cities are staffed between 1-1.3 officers per thousand residents.
When you were looking at the comparable salary surveys did you adjust for the fact the PA PD work year is bases on 2002 hours, almost two weeks less than the standard 2080 hours?
Posted by Malik, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm
I'm glad that enough light has been shed on this rampant overcompensation of our public sector that the taxpaying public is catching on. There will be little sympathy to bail out six figure pensions for retired bureaucrats.
I for one welcome the coming wave of municipal bankruptcies. It will get our cities out of bad checks written by past politicians to their union sponsors, and let us start getting what we pay for when we pay our tax bill.
Posted by Nick, a resident of another community, on Mar 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm
Phil -- I don't think too many on this board have been disrespectful of the police: on the contrary. We value their work, but need to make sure the city is in a sustainable position. And as I've said, they'd have a safer and better job with more police on the force -- but the rising costs of pensions are causing all cities to cut police, which makes their jobs more difficult and more dangerous.
1) $210k for a captain is still fairly generous (more than comparable to similarly sized companies VP pay). There should be no trouble attracting qualified candidates at those rates.
2) Entry-level officers still make generally >$100k (+ overtime!), which is more than the starting salary of even most MIT engineering grads who have spent $200k+ on their educations, and are among the best/brightest in the nation.
3) As I've said, the issue is less about salary anyway -- it's about the pensions. To sign up our children to pay millions 30+ years from now for services rendered today is immoral. It would better to bump pay 10%+ and get rid of the pensions (or at least get rid of tax-payers being on the hook for shortfalls, and make pension payouts based on the growth of the pension program -- then everyone has aligned incentives, including the math-challenged unions who continue to think 8% will happen).
Posted by Thanks Nick, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Mar 11, 2012 at 4:53 pm
I would completely agree most of the folks on here haven't been making personal attacks on the Police. They have some well pointed furstration with the system and with some of the other workers, but the Police haven't been attacked too much. I do have a couple points to clarify for whatever its worth.
Captains dont get paid 209K. That person while titled Captain had been the acting Assistant Chief for the past year and a half. In addition to that he had some compensation factors that used to exist but no longer do which bumped his pay. The Captain position is at 177K like the other one you see on the list. Still generous, but in line with other medium sized agencies like Mountain View, Milpitas, Santa Clara etc. Its the number 3 spot in an agency of 150 with a 30+ Million Dollar Budget.
As for the new officers, they start at 80K in the academy and then move to 89K when they pass training. Also generous, but when you consider they carry guns, influence people lives everyday, and have to virtually make every decision right, it might be the right amount. Its definately not like baseball where youre a star when you bat .300
Also for new folks, we just tried to offer to the city to lower the entry level wages and they refused. I suspect worried about retaining folks and hiring new ones with so many vacant positions.
On the retirement subject. As part of the package retirements formulas will be reduced by about a third with more years required, less payout for theose years, and averaged over a longer period of time.