Data Shows No ‘Fiscal Emergency’

Editor’s Note: Jim Unland is a sergeant in the San Jose Police Department and president of the Police Officers Association. He wrote this column for San Jose Inside.

Good news has been hard to come by as of late. That is until yesterday. The city of San Jose Police and Fire Retirement Board voted yesterday to accept the plan actuary recommendations on pension costs for next year. And surprise, surprise, pension costs shrank to the tune of $55 million in the police and fire plan. That’s not a typo—$55 million will come off the projected budget deficit as a result of pay and concessions and concessions agreed to by police officers and firefighters.

Initially, the city expected to pay $160 million in pension costs based on an outdated 2010 estimate. Mayor Chuck Reed used this data to create an artificial “fiscal emergency” based on data that has now been disproven by an independent actuary. What San Jose has is not a fiscal emergency but rather a leadership emergency.  Mayor Reed’s answer to his numbers being wrong? Well, he still wants to plow ahead with his unlawful pension scheme, which will lead to litigation and hundreds of millions of dollars of risk for the city. Let me be clear, we support lawful pension reform and as a matter of fact, we presented to the city just yesterday a new proposal to roll back pension benefits to 1996 levels for new hires and current police officers and firefighters who opt into this plan.

Today a coalition of unions will also unveil a “Zero Service Cuts” budget that will bridge the remaining $25 million deficit and create additional time to negotiate on legal reform. Instead of taking his ball and going home, Mayor Reed should roll up his sleeves like other big city mayors and work for solutions that will stand up in court. It is a shame that he is creating a solution in search of an unidentified problem.

What is the five-year budget forecast? What is the true size of the problem we are trying to solve? Only with numbers based upon retirement board actuary’s work will we know.  June ballot measure needs to be placed on the ballot 88 days prior to the election. It makes sense to let the actuaries do their job and not guess at what the problem could be.  Leadership requires a steady hand, and, boy, are we in need of that in San Jose today.

You would have thought that yesterday’s news would have been greeted with happiness at City Hall. Instead, the Mercury News reported that the mayor and city manager “greeted the news with skepticism and some dismay.” This is not the news they wanted.  This does not bolster their arguments for a fiscal emergency.  In fact, the vote for that isn’t going to happen because they at least want to hang onto some shred of credibility.

What does still appear to be happening is that the mayor is moving forward with his unlawful ballot measure in June. Instead of a March election though, he wants an election in June. A couple questions arise from this. If the election isn’t going to take place until June, why does the council need to vote on it now? And if sunshine is such an important aspect of everything we seem to do here at the city, why have the mayor and his council allies decided to “[d]ecline to permit rebuttal arguments in the June 5, 2012 Voter’s Sample Ballot”?  That is just plain disgusting and shows the true colors of this mayor and city manager.

Yesterday was a good day for those who deal in facts and verifiable data. Our plan is 85 percent funded, up from 70 percent. But don’t think for a second that the Police Officers Association and Fire Fighters Local 230 believe that the city’s fiscal future is all roses. We have submitted new pension reform proposals, and we will continue our efforts to bring long-term structural reform to our retirement plans. These changes have to be legal. We hope that with this bit of good news the city will return to the negotiating table and together we can find solutions to the long-term challenges ahead.

24 Comments

  1. Absolutely Beautifully Stated! So let me understand , Either It was Really Bad Math on the City’s part or The Mayor Lied , Either way the residents of San Jose must start asking the hard questions of this Dishonorable Administration. People now have to Question , The Ballpark financing , Illegal Ballot Measure,Improper shifting of RDA debt to General Fund (Reed sits on both Council and RDA as do other council members, No Conflict there!),real estate gift to Billionaire , rezoning to continue to build Low income housing(Favors for Reeds Developer Buddies , City Manager (Unearned/gifted)Benefits. This is just a small list of things that need to be looked at closer…………………….Lets see out Open the Mayor and Council are to “Open Gov/Sunshine”???

    • This administration truly needs to be investigated. I am just shocked that no one is doint ANYTHING about all of their antics. They just get away with EVERYTHING. Somebody needs to go to jail.

      • I agree, San Jose gives lying faulty data all the time.  They hide monies in so many funds, then they come back to their sheeple tax payers who believe everything they say along with the Monkey News!!!!

  2. Best I can tell from this report is that the good news is that if we continue to cut city services, raise some taxes and assume returns far greater than expected by Bill Gross at Pimco we can fund the exceptional pensions that amount to double take-home pay for police officers and firefighters )when comparing to average private employer pay).

    Wow that is good news!

    • willowglendad

      You are always free to TRY and become either a Police Officer or a Firefighter. The only reason you are as safe as you are is Because these individuals are willing to put it on the line every day and every nite . so sleep tight knowing Others are doing what you couldnt , to keep you and your family Safe.

      • First off let me say the idea that you can protect yourself and everyone will have to learn to care for their own family is a dream. How do you protect your house and family while you are working. 
          Keep in mind while you enjoyed a safe city many police and fire fighters worked very hard.  They worked with low staffing lower than every other city in the nation and produced a product that made the City of San Jose one of the safest Cities in the nation for a number or years.  They did this by hiring good people, training and most important by having a workplace that attracted some of the most qualified applicants and was able to retain them.  Many employees easily could have left for cities and even private sector jobs. They remained in San Jose because they enjoyed the working conditions.  while you enjoyed the safe city and a police department that was a model agency for much of the world you paid wholesale prices. You did not have a police department of 3000 members like many agencies. You had a small department of very dedicated well trained career employees who took pride in their job and in the job they did for the citizen’s of San Jose.
          while you complain that you have to pay who is going to do this job for free. The idea that you expect someone else to keep your city safe for free because you feel your paying to much in taxes is odd. 
            The truth is the City has wasted millions and millions of dollars. you do not understand how the retirement systems works and how its paid. Yes its a good system to be in and its a very hard job to get.  once you get the job you have to work hard and you have to give up many things. for example weekends off, holidays, time off, call back, these are just a few. there are the daily dangers. not getting killed is just one but there are the numerous fights, people who attack you spit on you hit you .  just a few
            all for wholesale for many years. A smart person might look at the projected cost to increase staffing to the national level should crime keep climbing.  What about trying to stop the many officers who are exiting. what about how will San Jose hire qualified people if they know promises are meant to be broken? A smart man would see that there is value in having something that works well and produces a good product. People often pay more for something they value. a safe city where people want to live only adds to the value.

    • Willow Glen Dad – please take your city hall-issued blinders off and read
      again, what Sgt. Unland posted. What I read is that based on the new numbers (not those dreamt up by Chuck and Deb) as well as the latest offer made by the POA and San Jose Firefighters Local 230, the budget deficit as imagined or lied about by the mayor, city council and city manager, is now under control. Additionally police, fire and other labor unions have real offers on the table ($500 million) and will continue to negotiate for long-term, permanent pension reform. If you choose to continue drinking the Kool-Aid as provided by the city or whatever other “sour grapes” concoction that you seem to enjoy, well I guess that some people are just beyond help.

    • Nobody is asking to double their pay basde on the latest numbers – to say that they are even sarcasticly undermines your cause.

      The unions that you consistently villify have given up 15% of their pay in the last 2 years, already pay between 17 and 22% of their salary towards their evil pensions and submitted several proposals for real pesnion reform.

      You didn’t hear the mayor talk about pension reform proposal the POA submitted to the City about one month ago? It projected $500million (half a billion dollars) in total savings to the City over the next 5 years. HALF-A-BILLION! As much as the US Dept of Energy gave Solyndra!!!

      As part of the offer, the POA was going to agree to continuing the 10% pay reduction for one more year and avoid the costly arbitration process that REED says must be avoided at all cost! That part of the offer ALONE would save the City a minimum of $30million for upcoming fiscal year 2012-2013!!!

      So lets do some math the projected Defecit was $80million for the upcoming fiscal year. (I think figone revised that up to $115mil a few months ago then the number shrank back to $80mil – the City either plays fast and loose with the numbers to suit their agenda or they really don’t have a clue).

      Back to the math, Cherion (the City’s number crunchers) says the def is $55million less than previously thought so 80 minus 55 equals? equals, anyone, Buehler Buehler? something – 5, 25? Twenty-Five million dollars?

      And had the City accepted the pension reform package that included ocntinuing the 10% pay cut saving $30million the City would be $5million in the black???

      It shouldn’t take Bill Gross @Pimco to figure out the Reed might bear much of the blame for the CIty being in such poor financial condition – I mean even he admits that he voted FOR the contracts with the unions knowing that they would cause the problems we are experiencing.

    • I am quite sure that WillowGlenDad is home in front of the fireplace on Christmas while I am away from my family chasing a burglar into a dark back yard.  Thank you WillowGlenDad for your support!

  3. Thank You for the real numbers! I hope all the unions will not be silent about this…Seems you guys are always quite about all the reforms and mis-information about the city or its monies. The citizens need to know the truth and I only read one side in the mercury news and other than Brain Doyle article I consistantly read nothing from any union or opinion on what is the exact truth. Please start rattling the trees on this as you will see that chuck will not report this and if fact will counter it someway. Again THANKS POA for telling the truth!

  4. Got it. City cooked the books to support their fiscal emergency so they could push through a ballot measure, try to push through illegal pension changes. They pushed too hard for their own political gain (county supervisor or assembly aspirations), and were caught when the real numbers were released.

    But in the long term, pensions costs need to be controlled, and the City must push hard to negotiate down future pension costs. Sounds like there are some offers on the table, and sounds like cops and firefighters are willing to sign something. Lets get a deal and lock in the savings!

    • County Supervisor or Assembly aspirations?  Give me a break!  Chuck-O is DOA (dead on arrival) if he runs for any political position in the future… even dogcatcher.

  5. or maybe it means some of that work very very hard for the city and support families also and make under 50K but bring in 3 times that smount in revenue may be able to get some of our pay back from the cuts imposed on us????
    this is in response to willowglendad

  6. So my question is………Why didn’t the POA experts put this out before all the cuts? In the past, POA experts have found money the city has hidden.  All the dues I pay the POA and the city people find the money?  Something wrong here.  I think that the more money can be found.  The city has always declared they had no money.

    • This is troubling. Very troubling.  If, as WillowGlenDad so often states with righteous passion and logic, public sector compensation and pensions must be modeled after private sector compensation and pension then “inresponsewillowglendad” you have been greiviously wronged. 

      The only equitable solution to right this terrible injustice is for you to receive compenastion equal to a private sector package that is at least equal to what you made before your choice to serve society rather than the corporate master!

  7. SO CHICKEN LITTLE FINDS OUT THE SKY IS NOT FALLING, SO NOW, I WANT MY 2 YEARS OF 10% PAYCUT BACK, CONSIDER IT A LOAN, AND YOUR PAYMENT IS OVERDUE, CHUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Zoran, my man! you got some real you know what to put your real name on these posts! ever the s*** stirrer, but much respected by your co-workers, well, at least by me. Keep up the cage rattling my friend!

  8. What did I tell you folks! 

    REED is DIRTY with Money Laundering and who knows what else? all while depleting much needed City Services… This guy Chuck Reed needs to have his personal books checked by the IRS.  He has a nice pool in his huge backyard.  Not to mention his solar panels he got for free as a kickback from the now troubled Solar company “Solyndra”  http://www.solyndra.com

    REED is as corrupt as they come.  Chuck you can take that “Mr. Know-it-all” smirk off your face now, or do you want that dumb look on your face as your booking picture when you go to prison???

    Old Frank

  9. The City of San Jose needs to demand an investigation into the workings of Reed. There is massive misuse of public funds at every level.  This is exactly what OWS is all about.  A billionaire’s manipulation of local government against the needs of the public.  Name one person elected in San Jose who is not bathed in some scandal ?  You even have a council member who claimed a workers compensation injury because he ate to many Big macs.  He obtained a high end expensive live in diet camp while the City covered the costs. 

    Its time to call the DA’s office and demand they begin an investigation into the deals that Reed and co are working.

  10. You guys have got me all wrong. I’m really happy to pay whatever the unions want. If I can hold out working until I’m about 70, I will be able to sell my house and combine it with my social security to move to low-tax Nevada. At that point I’ll be at maybe 65% of my working income. Hopefully there will still be foodstamps. Maybe when I’m visiting CA the nice young public service workers who retired at full pay at 52 (Mercury News 12/3) will help me get my groceries to my car.

    • when you move to Nevada, say goodbye to the old SJ you enjoyed.  65% is pretty good considering you never had to work midnights, every holiday, every special event, get shot at, view murder/traffic victims and start at 10.80 an hr.  So after 29 years I love my back, shoulder and knee pains w/o a disability retirement.  I appreciate your support.

      God Bless

    • You really confirm your ignorance by citing the Merc. Let’s do the math. You Cannot be employed by CSJ public safety until you are 21 yrs old. However, due to many factors, especially the need for maturity and life experience to be able to do the work properly and professionally, most new hires are generally 25 yrs old and have obtained a college education.
      But let’s suppose you are hired as a firefighter at 21 and work 30 years. You leave at 51 years of age. You are now in the 5% as a public safety retiree who actually survived 30 years without serious injury. But you still only get 90%. There is no provision to earn 100%. It is a mathematical impossibility to be 52 and get “full pay” as you say.
      But here’s the biggest thing, you made life choices to not work in an industry that provided a pension nor did you set aside money for your retirement. In your owns words you are relying on social security even though the government has warned for 20 years that social security isn’t enough. Willow glen dad made poor choices and now doesn’t want to accept his failure to plan. Instead he wants to deny those that played by the rules and worked hard. It’s the tortoise and the hare.  WGD should not have been so shortsighted.

  11. willowglendad

    Spoken like a truely spoiled knuckelhead.Im sure you work a cush 9-5 and your biggest worry is finding the Manicurist for that hangnail(excruciating).obviously you know nothing of the men and women of P.D./F.D.  and what they go thru , so that ingrates like you an belittle them.  you will never understand the things they have to do to save someone , or to shoot someone who was trying to do them harm. what about telling a Mother that her son didnt make it,ever held a baby as it took its last breath. Didnt think so………..so shut your face and crawl back into your Million dollar house and thank god that there are people who are willing to risk it all ……………………even for pinheads like you