Below, please find a letter that Tom Lynch (from the Sonoma County Planning Commission and the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee) posted to the West County Bulletin Board (http://www.Waccobb.net) & sent to the editors at the Press Democrat, with an introduction. Thank you for all of this information, Tom.
I join Mr. Lynch in strongly urging EVERYONE to call the Board of Supervisors' office at 565-2241.
The County is about to layoff 150 workers to fund raises for those that remain. Everyone I know at the County is opposed to this.
Thought I would share with you the below oped piece that I'm hoping will appear in the Press Democrat tomorrow or Tuesday in the Opinion section. Please call the Board of Supervisors office (565-2241) and ask to speak to Valerie Brown, Mike Kerns, Shirlee Zane or staff...it's ok to ask them to "Stop The $40,000,000 County RAISE!!!".
Pass this on to your e-mail list as well...
p.s. I've also created a Google Site with lots of info if you are so inclined at http://sites.google.com/site/savesonomajobs [NOTE from Russian River Rattina: Tom's new Web site is an informative collection of statistics and links about what the County's retirement system is costing us]Dear Editor, Press Democrat:
While State employees face 15% salary reductions, and local City Governments bear loss of wages, jobs and services; the Sonoma County Association of Retired Employees state that County administrators are giving all 4000 County staff $10,000 annual raises in salaries and benefits. A $40,000,000 raise, that saves $20,000,000 the first year, through Draconian cuts in employee health care. The additional $20,000,000 is funded from attrition of those retiring without rehiring, numerous cuts throughout many departments as well as to nonprofit and volunteer organizations, and layoffs of 150 County staff. For the eighth year in a row; a continuing diminishment from that of the previous year, of essential services Sonoma County taxpayers used to rely upon the County to perform with their hard earned tax dollars.
This $40,000,000 is from a $28,000,000 “cash allowance” of $600 per month; plus $12,000,000 toward the County’s 40-50% match on wages funding retirement benefits of all employees and elected representatives. For every dollar in salary, there is an additional 7.5% going toward the unfunded retiree medical obligation, another 8% for payments on $275,000,000 of Pension Obligation Bonds, an additional 16% to the Sonoma County Employee Retirement Association’s (SCERA) retirement fund, plus 7.65% in Social Security and Medicare, and 4-11% for management and elected officials 401(a)s. On the horizon a recent Segal actuarial sturdy projected County contributions to the retirement fund will double over the next 5 years.
The “cash allowance” raises are causing major cuts throughout the County with profound social consequences. The $28,000,000 raise increases the unfunded portion of the County pension portfolio by 40% as well. Why are we going through all these machinations in order to fund the additional $20,000,000 needed for this raise? Wouldn’t we all be better off simply freezing the health benefit as it is and negotiating some higher deductibles and generic medicine? Must we start laying off our less senior workers so soon, for such specious reasons? Are there not alternatives before we start eating our seed corn by cannibalizing our County work force?
The average salary and benefit for the top 1000 (25%) of County staff is now over $170,000 per year. Employees are paid annually for 2080 hours, while working on average 1680 hours….400 hours, 10 weeks, 1 out of 5 days off paid for sick leave, vacation, holidays, etc. Dare we ask County workers to forgo raises, or take a little cut in pay, perhaps reduce the amount of paid time off so that we may keep other staff from losing their own jobs? Cuts in County staff are cuts in essential services; during unprecedented economic conditions, we need government workers to help tend to the least of thee in our society.
County staff work very hard for a sometimes difficult public, and their efforts are often unappreciated. Every one of them would gladly participate in reduced hours, furloughs, salary cuts, etc. in order to help fellow workers avoid losing their jobs. Why are the unions and management not pursuing these other options.
Contra Costa County’s CEO is warning his Supervisors that in order to cover unfunded obligations, the County will have to lay off 25% of their 8000 person workforce over the next three years. Santa Barbara County is having joint Supervisor and Pension Board meetings to discuss major pension portfolio losses. San Mateo County is working collaboratively with all stakeholders toward making government services more sustainable. Locally Mead Clark Lumber, Aaction Rents, Agilent, and numerous other businesses have tried to avoid lay offs with across the board 10% pay cuts. Where is the leadership and vision commensurate with the challenges ahead? So much of the solution is a temporary cut, and Sonoma County is giving raises?
Have we become the proverbial frogs sitting in a pan of water over an open flame doing nothing while the water comes to a boil? Has County government become so insular and jaded to what’s happening that they would seriously consider laying off less senior workers, many of them “front line”, in order to provide raises to those who remain? Our Board of Supervisors has within them the political courage and wisdom to put the brakes on the “cash allowance” health care reform. The hope of many rests on their willingness to reopen negotiations; toward finding consensus on a more creative, innovative and sustainable solution to some of our budget challenges.
(Tom Lynch is a Guerneville builder, community activist, and one of Supervisor Efren Carrillo’s appointees to the Sonoma County Planning Commission. For more info go to: http://sites.google.com/site/savesonomajobs/.