What Should the City Do With Sick Leave Payouts?

Sick leave payouts are part of the City of San Jose budget deficit problem. These payouts do not discriminate; every employee including management accrues sick leave, and if employed with the City long enough, will be eligible for sick leave payout when they retiree. One exception is that councilmembers do not accrue sick leave.

The City of San Jose has paid over $28 million over the last two years for sick leave payouts. Upon retirement, the City pays out those sick leave hours at the current base pay plus other premium pay(s). Unfortunately, the Council/City failed to design a system that would track sick leave at the pay rate it was accrued. The City cannot go back and retroactively change the structure so that all employees sick leave is adjusted to the specific pay that their sick leave was accrued at.  In hindsight the sick leave structure should have been one that pays out sick leave on the rate it was actually earned with a maximum cap but this was not how the past Council set it up.

Two years ago, I called for capping sick leave pay outs to no more than $100,000 but there was little support to change the existing system. Any change to sick leave payouts then or now would require the City of San Jose to go through the Meet and Confer process with the unions. The Meet and Confer process can take as long as a year.

$28 million is a significant amount of money; more than the annual citywide library budget and quarter of our budget deficit. In my view, we need to change the benefits on sick leave just as we will on pensions for new employees. It should be eliminated for new employees so that it is like the private sector, a use it or lose it benefit for those that are actually sick.

So now what do we do with everyone that was promised to be paid on their accumulated sick leave hours?  There are different options, however, any change goes to the “Meet and Confer” process with the 11 Unions.

One option is to cap the amount of the payout to say no more than $100,000, or $80,000, pick your number. The other is to phase out sick leave over a number of years where the payout is reduced X percentage each year until the benefit is eliminated. Another option would be that the City pays out over time.

If the City must pay out another $14 million in sick leave this year that means we do not have $14 million to employ police or librarians to provide services to residents. Paying out another $14 million in sick leave would cause an undue burden to our residents. So instead of paying out $14 million in one lump sum I would suggest we pay it out over 10 years or roll it into the employees’ pensions. This would leave us with money on hand to keep city employees employed. Then, in the next budget year we would know the amount of the sick leave payout from the prior year and make subsequent budget cuts in the next fiscal years. However, we will have the same fiscal liability every year unless we change the current system.

Government is known for making promises it cannot keep.  People and businesses downsize or use bankruptcy to reorganize their debt and obligations. If The City is avoiding the “B” word then we must figure out a way to keep San Jose afloat, since we will continue to have $50 million increases in the pension system each year that is paid directly by the taxpayer.

Clearly if a person is about to retire, then they are getting out at a lucrative time and probably do not care about concessions. However, if you are an employee with less seniority (since merit is not a factor today) you may be more inclined to accept concessions to keep income coming in as being laid off is a 100 percent pay cut.  Only time will tell but it will all hit the fan in the next few months.

Congratulations to the Association of Legal Professionals of The City of San Jose for being the first collective bargaining group to conduct their negotiations as public meetings. I attended and was enlightened to watch as a member of the public last Thursday.

Joint Venture Silicon Valley held their annual State of Silicon Valley 2011 last Friday at the San Jose Convention Center. Much of the time was spent on how cities and counties will have hard times the next five years due to rising pension costs and decreased revenues. The outlook was grim and the notion of never recovering and delivering services the same way was discussed. Therefore they advocated outsourcing and consolidating services among cities to cut out duplicate administrative positions.


  1. Thanks for the opportunity to opine about time off.

    Providing “sick time” is a good benefit for employees to have. It acknowledges the responsibility employers (in this case the City of SJ) have to give employees fair working conditions. That said, the current system is archaic and not working; it’s obvious the time/money allocated for sick time is being used as a piggy bank.

    My suggestions: 1) I advocate that the City provides X number of days per year for “sick time” and X number of days per year for vacation time, with the understanding the sick time must be used within that year or it is gone. Period. 2) The vacation time should be allowed to accrue up to a certain number of hours (ex: 250 hours = 31 days) and when that cap is reached, time must be taken or hours stop accruing. Period. 

    This model (or something similar depending on where one works) is used in the private sector and would provide our hard working City employees the opportunity to take the time they need if they get sick and also take time off for vacation. Time off to take care of oneself and enjoy life outside of work is extremely important because it gives the body, mind and spirit an opportunity to rejuvenate.

    The way the current system works, it rewards people for coming to work sick and infecting others. It also rewards people for working themselves to death. Neither of these is good for the employee, the City or the community employees serve. The current system must be changed. Pierluigi, while it’s a “meet and confer” issue, I believe Council has the ability to use the impose option if an agreement cannot be reached, at least for all bargaining units save Fire and Police, correct?

    My .02.


    • I agree with a lot of what Tina said about sick leave, especially since it could tend to reward people for coming to work sick; so as to accrue those days for a later payout. Sick leave isn’t intended to be a savings account to kick off retirement.

      However, while I believe there needs to be a time limit in which to use it; the same year would be too aggressive. From time to time, one might have an illness that would use up sick leave for that year. It might be better to have an allowance of a couple of years sick leave on the books. In private industry, that wouldn’t be unusual—with the condition being “use it or lose it” once the upper limit is reached.

      A similar cap could be used for vacation time. It really doesn’t do anyone a favor to not take vacation time. That time away from work refreshes and energizes; and that’s always a positive factor in the workplace.

      JMHO, Judy

    • it turns into a use it or lose it policy, I will use ALL of my sick time EVERY SINGLE YEAR. That way I will get 100% of what I have EARNED by being dedicated to my work and not using my time. I come to work EVERY SINGLE DAY, whether I feel good, or not. It has NOTHING to do with getting paid for unused sick time. I don’t even think about that. What I DO think about is my job and making sure that I am there so as not to burden anyone else with my responsibilities and to get the job done. I ONCE cared about this place, but I don’t anymore. If they want to change that, let them do it. I just don’t care anymore. I will use ALL of my time every year.

      • YOU are the exact sort of person/city worker that Ms Morrill’s brilliant suggestions would free us up from.  If you resent your job and your benefits and the people you are supposed to “serve” so much, LEAVE. 

        Use all of your accrued sick leave each year if its a use it or lose it situation as mental health days.  Apparently you need them.

        Don’t let the city hall doors hit you on your way out.

        • @Farewell:

          IF is not the exception. City hall has managed to destroy morale within SJPD to the degree that we ALL understand that NOW WE ARE THE VILLAINS. That is until REAL villains victimize you. Then you call 911. At this rate Reed can layoff 500 hundred officers and fire fighters, close the budget gap on the back of public safety, and then we will all watch the looting and pillaging. Wonder where the police are. Well 700 officers to police 1 million (not including illegals and annexations) is bad math, aka Reed math. BUT HEY, the developers and high tech are happy so party on.

          I say, bring on the layoffs, eliminate sick time buyouts, and let the party begin. Reed the Terrible, with his jackals of Pier and Pete, will pay once we start to keep pace with Oakland’s crime rate. Excuse us officers (not a minority, THE VAST MAJORITY) if we just don’t give a damn anymore. This city sows hatred to it’s employees. This is what it will reap. If Reed lays off hundreds of officers, and you’re the average citizen in SJ, you better get an alarm and buy a handgun for home defense because you’ll be on hold if you call 911 when you need police. Aside from that great weather in SJ today…

        • When gravy trains end.  Morale hits the rocks.

          – Dotcom bubble ended.  Morale was crushed.
          – Housing bubble ended.  Morale was crushed.
          – Public employee compensation bubble ends.  Morale is crushed.

          It’s not Reed’s fault.  It’s not Pier’s fault.  It’s the way of unsustainable bubbles.

        • Just the typical statement I would have expected. You didn’t disappoint me.  Nothing you said surprised or offended me. And where in my post did you see me say I resented my job, my benefits and the people I serve? Where? I think your reading comprehension is a little off but, no, I really do not care any more. I’m tired and yes, I will leave. The doors at city hall won’t even have a chance to catch a wisp of clothing.

        • …or maybe the pension spiking, sick payout receiving, 3% yearly pension increasing, pension bonus receiving, doubledipping, Cabo charter boat fishing retirees can kick back some of their largess to help out the active duty guys.

        • How do you feel as a resident when the city wont repair the city sidewalks, street trees and the damage they cause.  Rather, they charge the property owner to maintain and repair them EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE CITY PROPERTY

        • OK Novice,…see how that works out for you when your local Norteno, Sureno, or average non-affiliated criminal is in a position to victimize you. Tell him to cut you slack, police response is delayed, the g-train bubble burst. Maybe he’ll cut ya a break…or maybe he’ll just shove your logic where it belongs =D

    • Hi Tina,

      Thanks for writing.
      Yes the Council could impose but that is extremely rare. It remains to be seen if the Council would impose a change to the current sick leave payout policy if the Meet and Confer process reached a stalemate. No change of sick leave payouts is a large financial line item every year.

      • Really. Don’t you remember what you voted for when you imposed on ABMEI last year??? You voted to impose sick leave changes for them when they City felt it reached impasse. “It remains to be seen if the Council would impose a change to the current sick leave payout policy…”  It’s pretty disappointing that you can’t even remember how you voted. But not surprising.

        Since you don’t remember, here is the change: “Effective June 27, 2010, modify calculation of payout from a maximum of 75% of final hourly rate for accruals between 800 and 1200 hours, to a
        maximum of 60% of final hourly rate for accruals between 400 and 1200
        hours for current employees. Distribution of payouts for employees who
        retire before June 27, 2010, shall be made no later than February 1,2011.
        For employees hired on or after June 28, 2010, modify calculation of
        payout to a maximum of 750 hours at 25% of final hourly rate. Employees
        who do not retire directly from active City service will no longer be
        eligible for this benefit.”

        No one else in the City has that change. Only AMBEI. Unit 99, the top staff, don’t have that change. Only one small union without much of a voice.

        Before you make a comment like that, you should watch your past Council meetings to refresh your memory.

        By the way, the first employee to retire under your new rules is about to happen. What a shame that he is taking the burden of so many by himself. After 30 years of hard sacrifice he has a Council Member who doesn’t even remember imposing on him.

        • I remember as I voted to impose. However it is the exception and not the norm when viewed historically. Thanks for sharing the details as well so people can see the modification rather than a use it or lose it model that most SJ residents advocate.

        • The revised sick leave payout plan that was imposed on ABMEI sounds fair.  Why not impose that on everyone next year and then impose another reduction the year after, and so on until you get down to the 25% payout level.  This way city employees know what to expect over the next few years and the final numbers are a reasonable compromise.  This might even prompt more early retirements so there would be fewer people to lay off.

      • Mr Oliverio

        Tina’s comments make perfect sense.  Please help all the residents of San Jose by championing this cause.  I do not want the city workers in San Jose to be treated unfairly but I also do not see a way that the residents and tax payers of San Jose can continue at this alarming rate of funding.

        Use it or lose it seems a fair compromise.  They can take the sick leave they earn and accrue vacation pay with a cap like many of us do in our private sector jobs.  Please do not overlook the reasonable solutions that Tina puts forth.  You will have the residents support if you champion this!

  2. Pierluigi,

    How about a new rule in city hall? All employee obligations must be paid in full by the city each year.  For too long council members have been able to make promises to unions without ever putting aside the money to pay for such the promises.  No more defined benefit pensions, no more multi-year sick leave payouts.  The city must change to a pay as you go system.

  3. Pier,

    Like Steve O stated; have the City pay the sick time out on a yearly basis which will be at the hourly rate it was earned.  There are 2-3 unions that currently get vacation sellback every year-why isn’t this eliminated?  Approx. 1,000 employees have this benefit which is probably an average of 5-6 thousand each which costs the City over 1/2 million each year.  Also, I have to pay into my deferred comp but the City pays money into City Manager Deb Figone’s and Attny Richard Doyle.

    Why haven’t you ever responded to the may posts to reduce the number oc Council Districts?  The current City’s mantra is do more with less so cut 5 districts from the 10 and make the remaining 5 bigger.  I do not expectt a response!

    • I agree, if we can keep cutting every other department at the city, let’s cut a few of the council districts.  Cities like Los Angeles and San Diego get by with 1 council person to 250,000 residents, why can’t San Jose?  Let’s have 4 council districts, north south east and west.  Better yet, let’s forget about council districts aka mini-mayors and go to 4 council members at large, maybe they would actually make decisions that are good for the whole city instead of just their own district.  If we are going to make radical changes at the city then let’s make some real changes.

  4. I’ve lurked for a while but now I feel the need to chime in.

    “Upon retirement, the City pays out those sick leave hours at the current base pay plus other premium pay(s).”
        Those hours are paid out to those who have reached at least 15 years of service and are not paid out until the employee reaches retirement age.  (For me, I was laid off and will not recieve this payment for another 15 years.)  Also, the hours are paid out based on a percentage of the employee’s base pay.  The percentage is based upon how many hours have accrued. If I remember, anything under 500 hours is paid at 50% and then it works up from there in stages.

    “The vacation time should be allowed to accrue up to a certain number of hours (ex: 250 hours = 31 days) and when that cap is reached, time must be taken or hours stop accruing.” 
        There was something like this put in place a few years ago. The number of vacation hours the employee receives each year is related to the number of years that they have worked.  The employee can accrue up to 2 years allotment and then they stop accruing.

    Saying that the employees need to be encouraged to use the hours is one thing, but when you are working in a department that has already been cut by 50% it can be very tough to get time off. Especially when someone must be present for the client to be taken care of.  In some locations, when one employee takes time off due to sick leave or using vacation or comp- time, the work load requires others to work overtime (or take the hours as comp-time).  There is no perfect system that can make everyone happy.

  5. After being a police officer for 25 years, I have 2 bad knees, herniated discs in my back, a bad hip and various assorted physical problems from the wear and tear of the job. I have dragged myself into work, strapped on my gear, got into a patrol car and gone call to call, when it would have been much easier to have called in sick. For this I have accrued some sick time which I do not use because now at the end of my career I may need for surgery or other critical illness. If you want to institute a use it or lose it policy, I will use it rather than lose it. If after 25 years, you want to break a promise go ahead.

    The vast majority of grunts like myself retire with a fraction of the $300,000 sick leave payout Chief Davis got. He skewed the numbers by working an executive job where he is not exposed to much risk sitting behind a desk. Politicians like Reed and Oliverio then use that against the entire police department by fanning the flames of public sentiment, honoring your word be damned.

    Leave the officers alone. After 25-30 years they are physically and emotionally broken. If you want to change the sick leave policy, go after the executive level command staff, who avoid the physical and mental toll, and skew the numbers for everyone else.

    You, Reed and Constant are absolutely destroying the police department. You have no idea of the damage you have caused.

      • There should be a maximum cap put on executive postions within the department; those positions that avoid the physical and emotional toll that your average beat officer deals with daily. Ironically, it is the executive postitions that accrue the most sick leave by avoiding street work and are paid out at their highest top salary, and it is the beat officers who accrue the least sick leave and are paid out at the lowest last salary. Many beat officers leave with little to no accrued sick leave. If you want to cap an executive within the department I don’t care what that number is. Leave the beat officers alone though. I have worked with many, many officers who have died never making it to retirement and burning all their sick leave with a terminal illness. I have worked with many officers who are medically or emotionally crippled and have used all their sick leave in their latter years trying to heal. I am disgusted with how you, Reed and especially Constant now demonize these officers for having a little nestegg of sorts, one that will never compensate many of them for what they have given to the city and you are now taking for granted.

    • Cops and firefighters need to police themselves and their unions.  You load your fields with way too many executives with outrageous perks and THEY turn the tide of public sentiment against you all. 

      If you’d all do a better job choosing union leaders who would truly negotiate in good faith and not personal greed you might “serve” the community better. 

      The 25 year promise was an empty promise made with money that wasn’t accounted for.  You accepted a promise that was meaningless.  Too bad.  It wasn’t Reed and Oliverio’s word to you all it was the union owned previous city council and mayors that made those promises that couldn’t be kept.  Blame them.  Hold them accountable for the public not feeling bad for you now.

      when the officers publically and forcfully come out against their executive level command staff and stand with the people then I’ll feel more compassionate and willing to vote to support their issues.  They hide behind the skirts of those greed top execs. 

      The cops seem to have no idea the damage their greed and unfair policies have caused themselves in the arena of public opinion.  Didn’t you all get the message by the resounding support Mayor Reed’s measure V & W got?

      • He got the support that he did by being a hypocrite, lying, and playing the class warfare card. It doesn’t mean he was right, fair, even moral in his speech and actions. It just means that he won. However, it remains to be seen whether this will ultimately be good for the city

  6. “Government is known for making promises it cannot keep.”

    Thanks for admitting to the lies and dishonesty. We have been trying to tell the citizens this. It is no different than how THEY are being lied to,today. Thanks for admitting it.

  7. “If The City is avoiding the “B” word….”

    IF the City gets to the “B” word, it will get interesting. The City will have to show all of its cards; every dime, every penny and where it’s located. All assets, which will have to be sold. People will get to see exactly how much money the City is hiding. Employees who can bail, will. The City will be left in a darker hole. Willy Nilly thoughts. Sometimes I am perplexed at what can come out of the minds of those who are in charge of managing this City. No wonder it is in the state it’s in. Building new libraries and fire stations when you can’t even pay employees to staff them and trying to lay them off. Wanting a new ballpark, when you’re trying to find ways to get money back from the employee. Poor, poor management.

  8. @IF—I think you’ll find that when residents make suggestions, it’s from what they know. Many have experienced the change from unlimited sick leave on the books to a specific amount that can be accrued, before it is lost. We’re all scratching our heads, looking for ways to keep the services that we believe are essential that will meet our needs & keep each other safe. For many, that’s libraries/community centers/parks, in addition to police & fire. Continuing to reduce those, causes hardship & makes those services less able to meet our needs & keep us safe. I’m sorry you think that being at work EVERY day is more valuable than taking sick leave when you’re not feeling well. Both vacation and sick leave were designed to be a regular part of employment, and they help employees be at the top of their game when they’re at work. The community needs to make suggestions, based on what we know/what we’re told, because our quality of life is affected. If you have suggestions that will provide effective services to the residents, while preserving all employees and their benefits; bring it on! We’re all in this together, when it comes to finding solutions.

    • “I’m sorry you think that being at work EVERY day is more valuable than taking sick leave when you’re not feeling well.”

      Well, I’m REALLY sorry that you think being at work, even when I do not feel good is NOT valuable. Think about that citizen who needs me. If I am not there to provide the service that they need, then their needs aren’t met. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either you can have me there to be able to take care of what it is you need, when you need it, or I can just stay home and you can go without until I come back to work. How about that? Choose one.

      • Nobody is indispensible, not even you.  If you’re sick, stay home and don’t infect your co-workers and the public with whatever it is you have. 

        If you want to act like a seven year old child taking his ball home, then use all of your sick leave.  At least the City won’t have to pay it out at rates double the original earned value.

        • Ahhh, Professore,

          You have great wit but there’s not much of a market for self-trained comedians right now. 

          I do wonder, however, just who “noone” is… would that be Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits?!

          You did leave out one call-in code, “Professore,” which translates as follows: “I’m a big baby who always gets my way, so I’m not coming in today!”

          Anyway, thanks for the great laugh this morning.

        • “Professore” means: “Use it or loose-it.”  Can’t have it both ways – can’t be a baby for NOT using – (threfore not abusing the Sick leave benefit) then be a baby FOR using it which is what the good council person and his supporters are suggesting.

          I could be called PLO copy-cat and blame all my spelling/grammar and incomplete thoughts/sentiments on the PDA I typically post with. ( won’t even though I think I just did…)

          laughter is the best medicine…

        • no but when minimum staffing has to be maintained by holding over officers/sergeants… at time-and-a-half what has really been accomplished?  The City can pay overtime planned more than 48 hours in advance with “Compensatory-Time-Off” (an unfunded liability) and routinely does.  They have to PAY cash at 1.5/hour for the type of unplanned chort notice “call-back” that the daily “sicks” generate. 

          Ahhh remember when …. those military days – working for Uncle Sam mustering every morning and avoiding “sick call” at all costs – lest one be labelled as one of the “sick, lame and lazy.” I guess you heard it here, teh community spokes-persons have spoken… what choice does on have than to “use it or loose it!”  The once negative “sick/lame/lazy” designator shall from this point on be proclaimed as an essence of VIRTUE!

          In honor of the promoters of this I suggest that noone calling “sick” any more. Rather call in “Constant” (code for: its beach weather and my back hurts…”  or “Oliverio.” (code for: union thugs are harassing me and I am nursing a wicked hangover) Call in “Howe” (synonymous with “I have a vision problem – I’m redundant and not needed at work today”) or “Purrington” (means: I have to make sure my neighbors have the proper tree trimming permits today) , “Hello I’m calling in John Galt today and tomorrow too.”… (the “furrie” convention is in town and I need to get some hugs!)

  9. @Interesting—It’s time to show the cards. The City is not a machine to serve itself. City government exists to serve the residents. Residents never intended to build libraries, community centers, fire stations, or police substations that couldn’t be staffed. A few years ago when the communities asked why the City was taking staff from community & youth centers (and closing them) to run other community centers; they were told that they had to build the new ones because the residents voted for that. Same kind of thing we’re being told, when new libraries are being shuttered; instead of being opened to serve the community. The City put those things on the ballot and wanted the residents to vote for them; BUT, then they didn’t make provision to staff and run them. It’s disappointing to hear that it was the fault of the community because we “made” them build. As residents, we use what we know, to elect representatives to see to our best interests; and to manage the staff at the top levels to do right by the residents. Things aren’t working out so well, with the poor economy to deal with; and we’re left with wondering how and why our City only planned for increasing revenues. Anyone who has lived in this valley for even a few years, knows that there’s both good and bad times to deal with; and it swings back and forth. Sounds like you’re an employee. What are your suggestions?

  10. @IF—Sorry you have so much anger. I should have known, when I noticed your earlier post had 14 screaming words in all caps. I used 1, since you had capitalized that word several times; but I guess that was my bad. I should have known that you were looking to show anger.

    Everyone is looking for solutions that save services and jobs. And residents have a lot a stake here, too. Hopefully every possible solution that can contribute, will be explored.

    And, yes, when you’re sick; the valuable place for you to be is at home. That’s what sick leave is for. It promotes your well-being, and could even reduce the time of your illness; so you’re back at your job perky and helpful in record time. Your management is responsible for making sure that essential services for your customers are handled.


    • It’d be nice to think that ‘the valuable place for you to be is at home’. But the city has been able to understaff the PD in the way that it has, in part, because of the sick time arrangement. And, it’s not ‘our management’ making the decisions in that respect. It’s city hall, ignoring statistics, national averages, etc. and simply telling the PD to do more with fewer resources and less money. Also, as much as people would like to knock the sick time buyout program, it’s one of the few things actually keeping sufficient officers on the streets right now. There are so few of us – far less than the national per capita average – that now is not the time to start tinkering with it – especially if layoffs occur.

      On the other hand, the fiscal decisions and behavior coming out of city hall has been reprehensible and irresponsible and it is nice for you to at least tacitly acknowledge what your police officers have been aware of and saying for years.

    • “And, yes, when you’re sick; the valuable place for you to be is at home. That’s what sick leave is for. It promotes your well-being, and could even reduce the time of your illness; so you’re back at your job perky and helpful in record time. Your management is responsible for making sure that essential services for your customers are handled.”

      Judy. You must be use to telling people what to do. Please don’t tell me where I need to be or what I need to do. I am very capable of making that decision on my own. My well being has been just fine, up to this point. I’m perky and helpful even when I don’t feel up to it. And, yes, it is easy to say what management is responsible for, but when the staffing is not available, it becomes a little complex, sometimes. You don’t know me. You don’t know what my job is. Sometimes there are others who cannot handle what I have to do in my absence. You are not in CH, you don’t know what is going on or how everything is functioning, or what shortages are in each department. Please stop telling me what is best for me. I can make those decisions for myself. Just because someone is not feeling well, it doesn’t mean that they are to the point of infecting fellow employees or the public, as Greg Howe has stated. I haven’t had the flu in over 20 years and as far as I can remember, my last cold was in 2002. Not feeling well can mean a headache, backache, gout, arthritis or just a general feeling of “I don’t feel good”. I’m not going to call in sick for such minor issues. That is my choice. So, please let me be the one to decide what is best for me. Thank you.

    • “@IF—Sorry you have so much anger. I should have known, when I noticed your earlier post had 14 screaming words in all caps. I used 1, since you had capitalized that word several times; but I guess that was my bad. I should have known that you were looking to show anger.”

      PS…You would be angry too if you were about to lose much of what you have worked so hard for because of mismanagement of the taxpayers money, which is now being taken from you to try to make up the shortage. You should hope that this does not ever happen to you in your life. Just take a moment to put yourself in someone’s shoes who is going to lose their home because of this. How would you feel if you were losing your home as your thanks for being a dedicated employee? Think about it. Feel it. Where are you going to live? What are you going to tell your children? Feel it. Take it in. Imagine it. It’s you, now. What are you going to do? Would you have any anger?

    • Most citizens fail to understand the culture of police work. When an officer cannot be at work because he is sick, then he allows his friends and team to face greater risks as a result of his absence. Guys who burn their leave as soon as they accrue it, are often labeled sick, lame or lazy. The demands of the job and the close knit atmosphere of the job creates a camaraderie that exists in few other occupations. Officers were provided the ability to accrue sick leave in lieu of a pay raise and it also allowed the city to hire fewer officers to keep minimum staffing. San Jose has been very fortunate to have an agency half the size of SF patrolling an area with a million people. Should sick leave been calculated at the pay rate it was acquired. Yeah, but again the city stupidly failed to consider this aspect and didn’t have the necessary software to operate it. Same story is continuing. The police department is in the heart of Silicon Valley yet it has technology that is 10 years old and diverse systems that cannot communicate and data it cannot mine. The problems at the city extend way beyond its inability to fully fund benefits.

  11. San Jose’s very well paid city administration by city charter:

    ” City officers and employees must be independent, impartial and responsible in the performance of their duties and accountable to the members of the public. “

    City Administration believes they are only accountable to City Manager while being irresponsible, reckless in the performance of their duties and unaccountable to public

    The result has been past 10 years of budget deficits, pension crisis and probably 8-10 or more years of future deficits, layoffs and reduced city services

    Budget and pension problems are not fault of residents, local businesses or city employees only city administration

  12. Wow! To hear City employees describe themselves here, you’d think that they’re all saintlike paragons of workplace virtue. Reality would suggest otherwise. There’s a reason why the City allows them to accumulate their sick pay and here it is: So they’ll show up to work!
    Previously, many of these so-called “hard working” employees magically seemed to be sick the precise number of days each year for which they were given sick leave- and not a day more. So we taxpayers can either blame our City management for “negotiating” this burdensome policy OR we can blame the thousands of employees who took advantage of our generosity and used it instead as an opportunity to squeeze more money out of us.
    Maybe the answer is to let City employees experience the workplace reality of many of us that pay their salaries. Take me, for instance. I don’t work- I don’t get paid. What a concept huh?

    • “Take me, for instance. I don’t work- I don’t get paid. What a concept huh?”

      No wonder your envy streak shows up so loudly. Maybe you need to find a better place to work. I’ve had sick leave pay every where I’ve ever worked in my life.

      • I guess people who only think of themselves assume that everybody else must be motivated by selfishness too. I know it’s beyond your realm of comprehension but most people who are fighting to rein in employee compensation are motivated not by greed, jealousy, or envy, but by a genuine desire to improve our city. What kind of a City will we have when 100% of the budget must be given to people who are retired? Let me guess. You don’t care.

    • John,

        Prior to working for the City; I worked as a subcontractor for a Fortune 500 Co.for 10 1/2 yrs.  I did not get any sick time or 2 month furlough every 7yrs as each of their employee’s were given.  I came into work sick because if I didn’t; I wouldn’t be paid.  These are the things we do as young fathers to provide for our families.

      Now as a City worker; I have a retirement to try and obtain (less likely now with all of this City rhetoric).  Per our current contract; sick time is only paid out at retirement after 15yrs of service.  Anyone who leaves before working 15yrs does not get there sick time accrued for any payout. 

      I left private industry to come to the City to look to the future for a retirement plan.  I never was offered any stock options, bonus etc. when the dot com was booming.  Sure I pay into my deferred compensation (401k) with no match from the City.  Now that the City Retirement fund lost 1 billion dollars in the 2007-2008 stock market crash, the City wants to try and make up for it by takeaways.

      During the crash of 2007-2008 and for every other year I have been employed with the City, my paystub was deducted the required retirement contribution but the City shirked their payments when the market was booming! Why wasn’t I given this option?

      Also, I left my money in the same funds since the 2007-2008 crash and now my account as back to it was before.  The City panicked and moved theirs into commodities and have not seen the returns they could have if they left it alone (dollar cost averaging).

  13. For years now, the City of San Jose, it’s leadership and it’s residents, have benefited from the sick leave buyout program, particularly with respect to public safety. To my knowledge, only the fire department and police department have ‘minimum staffing’ rules which mandate a minimum number of officers or firefighters on duty each shift , a number which takes into account anticipated sick absences.

    Because so many officers and firefighters come in despite being sick or injured, the city has not had to hire so many of us, because we tend to just come in to work. One of the main reasons for this is that there’s a tangible benefit – however delayed – for doing so.

    If the city negotiates to establish a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ policy, that is exactly what will happen. There will be fewer officers and firefighters on duty because we will just stay home when we are sick or hurt and the ultimate losers will be the citizens, because the city’s chronically understaffed public safety agencies will see further staffing shortfalls as officers and firefighters with no incentive to preserve their overtime will, inevitably use it, if for no other means than to be able to take time off they might not otherwise be able to get since getting vacation time is – especially of late – so appallingly difficult to take.

    Now, there are those of you who are going to scream and yell about misuse of sick time, but the fact is that there’s no way most of you would put up with the difficulties in getting time off approved in a way that is timely enough to take a meaningful vacation. Really. It’s absurd.

  14. Is sick leave paid out on the same pay scale at which it was earned?

    Would someone who spent 20 years as an Officer and 5 years as a Sergeant be paid at a Sergeants rate for sick leave earned over a 20 year period or for the 5 years at which the position was held?

    Just a question, maybe it was answered already.

    • Sick leave is paid out at the rate in which you retire….. So you are correct, If I was a firefighter for 25 years and promoted to Captain the final 5 years my payout would be at Captain’s wages…

      There is definitely some room for improvement there…

      In the Fire Dept. the sick leave payout actually saves the city money, If I call in sick then my position cannot go unstaffed and has to be filled, usually with overtime because of how short staffed we are, and the end result is a cost of 2 and a half times…. 1 for me and 1.5 for my replacement.

      At the end of my career, which I am only eligible for payout after a minimum of 15 years, for every 1 hour that I get paid for sick time I have actually saved the city 1.5 times due to not having to pay the overtime to staff my spot

      Hope that make sense…. It is not a perfect system but it is one that was brought forward by the city years ago in lieu of a raise and agreed upon in good faith by both the city and the unions. 

      Pierre wants to take all those mutually agreed upon deals and throw them out the window….  If he gets his way, there will never be any trust between the union members and the city.  Say what you want but this city’s leadership is seriously eroding any relationship opportunities with it’s employees.  Good luck agreeing on any future contracts….

      • The unions have not trusted management for many years. Don’t make it sound like this is something new. The Unions taticts of delay and strong arm negotiations have for too long stuck it to the Tax Payers.

        Hopefully management will not be afraid of the “B” word at all. Bring all wages and benefits into line with the private sector. If this forces out some who want to run then go ahead. the sooner they leave the sooner someone else can take their place.

        With the current unemployement rate, I am sure we can hire all the help we need to provide all the services we need to provide and the city will be just fine.

        Does anyone know how many employees actually live in other cities where their taxes are not affected by this burdonsom pay structure?

  15. There has to be a balance somewhere here.  If you were to take accrued hours away at the end of each year you risk employees using all of them every year, in the end costing more in OT and backfill.  Why not pay out sick time at the rate hourly it was accrued?  Or, pay it out yearly?  You could mandate that an employee keep a minimum amount of hours on the books, say 1 month’s worth, and then they could sell back the rest.  To simply just take all the sick leave payout away would be penny wise and pund foolish in the end.

  16. Pierluigi first of all you and the council need to take a little more responsibly for this situation. Several of the council members were on the city council when retirement increases were agreed upon. These city council members also agreed to give the city a retirement contribution holiday when the city was receiving exceptional returns in risky assets. The city did not take the money designated for the retirement contribution and place it in to safer assets. During this time frame city employees were not given a retirement contribution holiday and they continued to pay. Clearly the city gambled and it loss. Now that loss is falling on the shoulders of city employees. At the same time you and the rest of the city council are still catering to residents with you special programs and the ongoing fight to keep the libraries open. The libraries should be open only three days a week straggled throughout the city.

    Pierluigi you are also jumping on the sick time payout wagon along with several of your constituents. The fact is sick time payout saves the city more money then you realize. In the private sector business hire more people to cover pregnancies, sick time, vacation and family leave. The city has been able not to hire additional employees because employees only take sick time and family leave only for the most extreme emergencies. This allows for more employees to show up for work each and every day reducing the need to hire several more bodies. You cite in your article that the sick time payout has cost the city $28 million over the last two years. How come you don’t cite that these are the last of the baby boomers on the job and project how many retirees the city will be having. The fact is that the sick time payout is actually going to drop since all departments will be having fewer retirees.

    • Sick leave is for sick people. If you are not sick and you choose to not come into work by calling in sick. That sounds like a lie and you are defrauding your employer, moe importantly you are defrauding the tax payers.

      if you call in sick and you are not. YOUR FIRED!!!

      While you won’t catch everyone, you only have to catch a few to stop this riduclous arguement.

      Get real, Sick Leave is not to be confused with vacation time.

  17. Officers accrue sick leave because the nature of their illnesses and injuries tend to be cumulative. The bad backs, bad knees, heart disease, hearing loss, cancer, and emotional issues don’t usually show up in the first years; they show up after many years. An officer with 20-30 years on who has accrued some sick time, assuming it was not used earlier, can recover from a serious illness that took many years to develop. If a traumatic illness or injury takes years to accrue and manifest itself, an officer should be able to accrue their sick time to take time off they have earned to recover.

  18. Why have sick leave ?

    It is abused by many as extra vacation or not used and then taxpayers pay millions to buy it out

    Threatening to abuse sick leave if policy is changed is even more reason to eliminate a bad sick leave policy and change to personal time off with capped accrued days and payout cap

    Combine vacation and sick leave into ““personal time ” off more honest way and does not require city to determine if sickness is valid or not so can’t be abused. should be capped at 60/90 days or City Manager could extend to 90 / 120 days on individual basis for “good of city  

    Public disclosure of personal time off exceptions would be early warning sign to Council and public of possible low staff or other employee problems

    It is not good for employees, city or taxpayers for officers or employees to work sick since sick or tired people have more accidents, take longer to get well, give sickness to others, some times behave badly to other due to not feeling well and cost city more

    Require employees to take at least 1/2 personal time off each year if not 75% next year or 100% 3rd year no matter the reason by city or employee

    As for payouts cap all sick, vacation or sick leave payouts at 90 days If over 90 days have employee take time off until less 90 days as many organization do so employee with 120-150 days would take 30-60 days paid off then retire or leave city employment

    • This notion might work in every department except for public safety. The reason for this is because public safety has something called minimum staffing. Personal time only works if there’s no one to tell you that you can’t take vacation time because of minimum staffing. Separating out the two types of time off allows for watch lists to be maintained accurately, and to account for vacation and comp time taken off while still allowing a margin of safety should officers call in sick.

      One possible idea for public safety is to allow officers and firefighters to accrue a given amount of time – say 3 years worth of vacation time, then, at the end of each year, pay out for unused vacation time when W-2’s go out. This becomes a pay-as-you go model which allows for a margin of comfort for things like a catatrophic illness and also maintains some sort of reward system for coming in to work while accommodating minimum staffing needs. If, at the end of the that officer’s (or sergeant’s or firefighter’s) career, he or she still has those three years worth of accumulated sick time, pay it out at the ending rate. Finally, since lieutenants, captains and chiefs are not subject to minimum staffing rules, I submit that for this and other reasons, they form a sort of executive staff position. Realistically, once promoted and past probation, their unused sick time could be converted to personal time, held in reserve in the same way as sick time, excess paid out annually or, in the worst case scenario, time in excess of the reserve could be placed in the use-it-or-lose-it category.

      One other notion that might make the annual payouts more palatable to public safety personnel is to transfer the payouts directly to a 401k or deferred compensation plan. This would make what appear to be the inevitable onslaught of cuts more palatable as well as making those second-tier pay/benefit packages more attractive to new hires.

      I think this sort of solution manages to capture the heart of the compromise process: everyone wins a bit and loses a bit, but it still helps the budget while not compromising safety or the ability to hire the best candidates.

  19. Why not switch to a system that allows unlimited sick time? You only use your sick time when you need it. 

    It’s a dated idea to assign a specific amount of time that’s available for sick time (which everyone uses for vacation anyway).  My past few employers have used this model, although I’m guessing what may work well in business may not translate to government services.

  20. When I left the private sector to come to work for the City 21 years ago, I took a $26K pay cut.  That was a lot of money then.  It is a lot of money now.  As a public employee, we work in a fish bowl, and are subject to numerous laws, rules and regulations such as The Brown Act, avoidance of conflicts, gift prohibitions, public act requests, Sunshine, and a public mindset that we are slaves available to respond to their every demand.  During my tenure here, I have have not been able to avail myself of any stock options, profit sharing, lavish gifts, paychecks, etc., that many folks in the private sector have had.  In fact, many colleagues in my office jumped ship to make the “big bucks” in the private sector when the getting was good.  Meanwhile, I and those colleagues who remain, plodded along doing our jobs only to now be pilloried by the public, City administration, Mayor and Councilmembers.  The blatant resentment toward public employees that seems to be spreading like a cancer across the county is reminiscent of a resentment and mean-spiritedness that was flamed and spread throughout Germany in the 1930s.  Truly pathetic and dangerous.  I think those of us who are public employees can assuage all the resentment and anger out there by working for nothing; giving new meaning to the term “public servant”.

    • Public Serf,

      I agree with your comments about public employees being pilloried.  Over the years I have met a number of city of San Jose employees and overall they have impressed me as wanting to do their best for San Jose. These are tough economic times so I understand why the public feels frustrated.  But demonizing city employees is counter productive.

  21. Lot of informative comments here from public safety officers.  I think that they have made the argument that the procrustean bed of making the public safety officers follow the same sick leave policy as other city workers, however it may be revised, is unwise.  Their wear-and-tear in service is much different than their supervisors and other city workers, particularly the white collar workers. 

    Perhaps the city council can look into distinguishing the beat cops’ plans from those firmly ensconced in City Hall.

  22. Go ahead, I know I’m replaceable so take back the buyout… I have too much time with the City to get laid off and not enough to retire. But you can bet I’ll take every second of my 1500+ Sick hours accrued over the remainder of my career – it will amount to about four more days per month of time I will spend doing what I want rather than what you want…

    • So let’s see.  If Dr. Feel Good is a police officer and has 3.5 years left to work.  He works patrol in the Rose Garden area.  He is suggesting that he will use his sick leave time to obtain (let’s say) every Friday off for the next 3.5 years.  That is four days off a month (more or less).

      Who will patrol his beat when he is off? 
      Will it have to be filled by someone in the sexual assaults unit?
      Will it go unfilled?
      No more investigations into accidents or property crimes?
      What if his colleague is able to take three days off a month?
      Will the city need to hire more officers?
      How much will that cost?

      If she is a fireperson…
      You have to have so many on a rig?
      Close a station?

      If he is code enforcement/inspector..
      One less person?
      Longer wait time to get permit signed off?

      Honestly, I think it just needs some tweeking.  Pay the rate it was accrued.  That should save money.  The funny and ironic thing about that is that the city would need to get a whole new payroll software to make that happen and it would take a year and a half to get and cost a $1-$2 million to buy.

  23. Pier, just wanted to point out a couple things to you.  25 years ago in the academy city personel came in and gave a class on city policies and benefits.  I will never forget one of the things the lady told us.  She said to listen up because she was going to gives us a great stock tip.  She told us to save our sick time because someday we would be able to cash it out.  That advise was not given by a police department employee but rather a city hall employee.  Peir, to be fair (I know that is asking a lot from you), you should examine all of the facts before taking such a public stance.  I don’t think the city did this out of the kindness of their own heart but rather a calculated plan to save the city money each year.  San Jose has had the lowest big city officer per capita in the nation since I have been an officer.  We have done more with less for decades and have done a remarkable job that our past reputation can speak for.  One of the ways we did this short staffed was because we did everything we could to not call in sick.  Now using numbers today, a top step officer makes 107k a year and with benefits that tops out at a cost of about 180k more or less.  Most agencies and business take into consideration sick leave and vacation when setting staffing levels (I don’t know the number but lets say an addition 5% staffing as an example) but if you have an agency that uses less sick time than the average you can get away with hiring less people thus saving 73k yearly in benefits per employee.  Thats a whole lot of money each year the city has saved for decades by offering an incentive for employees not to call in sick.  Now after benefiting from the savings for decades you would like to take away the earned incentive in the 11th hour.  You asked for suggestions thus I will give you a fair one.  Buyout or cap sick leave at todays number to be paid when the employee retires as the city agreed to decades ago.  Change the sick leave policy to a standard sick leave policy more in line with current models in the public and private sector and let employess use their sick leave as others do in different fields and agencies.  The employee would then know the new rules and I don’t think most would have any problem with it.  Staff the department to handle the difference in daily staffing.  People would then use their sick leave when their sick and large payout in future generations would be reduced or eliminated.  I understand the frustration in the private sector when they hear about these payouts but understand that the city has also benefited from it.  Another thing to rememeber, at least at the police department, is that most of these big payouts are a thing of the past.  Most of the officers left use their sick time.  Most Americans would be unhappy if their employer changed the rules for past incentives earned.  Just change sick/com/vacation payout to stock options or past bonuses or employer 401k match.  No one would think thats fair to take away something that was agreed to in the past but most would understand if the rules were change today and would work within those rules or leave the business and seek employment elsewhere.

  24. I’m sad that this discussion all appears to be pointless. There’s probably a way to find some compromise. It may not be found easily, but as a resident; I believe it must.

    At least I know what city employees think of community members.

    • Judy,

      I have spent my career trying to put crooks in jail and make San Jose a better place to live for the community members. Most of my coworkers have done the same and are very devoted to their jobs and the community.

    • Actually Judy, other than feeling like the citizens have made poor voting choices with respect to those in City Hall, we really don’t think poorly of the community. What we are is angry, infuriated, and betrayed by the people voted into City Hall. We are fed up with the lies, the disinformation, the fallacious arguments, the profligate waste the outrageous demands and naked disrespect for us in which City Hall seems all too willing to indulge.

      For years now, we’ve done more with less: less income than the private sector, historically; fewer officers per capita than most, if not all, cities in the nation, fewer department resources than most other big cities, the list goes on…

      Now, we are being told that we are expected to do less than the ‘less’ we’ve already accepted and having waved under our noses a few extraordinary examples of non-peers (as the chief of police was certainly not a peer of the beat cop) taking advantage of the system that was set in place as partial compensation for historically doing more with less and all the while being demonized by YOUR CITY LEADERSHIP as the root of all the city’s fiscal evil as opposed to THEIR reckless, irresponsible, self-indulgent spending, their waste, their lies.

      Then, there are people like you who read and blithely accept a single side – and the side that is generally the one that is doing the lying and waste and reckless behavior – because it’s convenient and consistent with the class warfare policy model that City Hall is following. Simultaneously, you fail to look at the history of how we got here, the other side’s position, and make suggestions which the other side asserts would be disastrous for the city, again, blithely ignoring the sound logical reasons why they’d be disastrous and ignoring all the positions of compromise that side suggests. Faced with a similar set of experiences, how would you feel?

      Mayor Reed and his cronies would have you believe that cops and firefighters are – or have been – unwilling to compromise. We’re not. We are willing to bargain in good faith. City Hall has not done so. What we want is assurances that our jobs will be secure if we do make concessions, that the understaffed PD won’t be even more understaffed going forward and that the concessions we do make won’t be so egregious as to ensure that we can’t pay our mortgages, our bills, support our families. Please, explain to me how this is unreasonable.

    • “At least I know what city employees think of community members.”

      Judy, it didn’t start out that way. People who choose to work in the public sector do it because it USE to be a rewarding job. We loved working with the people and helping them. It is a good feeling. Enter Mr. Reed who decided that in order to push all of these new take-a-ways on the employee, he had to have the public on his side. So…he set out to draw the public to his side by pitting the public against the employees and what a mess he has made. But he uses you. He has snowed you into thinking we are the disease that has caused this problem with the City budget. He has used you to get what he wants to be able to put the employees through hell and have them pay for his mistakes. Just look at what he said at his address…something to the effect that if we do not make concessions, he’s going to take it to the public. Threatens us with the public. He uses, uses, uses you to hurt us and I am surprised the public has not realized it. So it has become nasty. We get all of these snarky remarks from the public and it caused us to snark back. What should happen is the public and the employees should band together and request that the administration show us where the money actually went. The public should be demanding to know where their money went, but instead it is so much easier to blame the employee and make the employee barf up their guts to give it back to the City. Therefore, there is a lot of resentment. Resentment that the very public we chose to work with has turned on us. Resentment that our administration does not take care of their employees and goes so far to call us cancers. Have you ever, ever heard a city leader, anywhere, put down the employees like that. Is that what it took? Berating and put downs to turn the public against us. People actually flip us off for no reason, now. So what you are seeing is not so much of a dislike for the public, but a total dislike for what the administration did to ruin the relationship between the public and the employee and a position that we loved. I don’t think it will ever be the same. Recall and get somebody in here we can work with.

  25. In my corporation, if my budget folks told me we had a deficit of $20 million, I tell them to find the problem and fix it.  If one month later they tell me sorry boss its $40 million, then $80 million, then only months later they tell me the deficit is $110 million, I’D FIRE MY BUDGET PEOPLE!  If whoever is doing the books at the City Temple can’t count, let’s stop blaming the employees of the City and blame whoever is cooking the books and those you order it done.  You can’t tell me that these fixed costs could not be forecasted better.

    And can someone tell me what the deficit will be next fiscal year and how many cops and firefighters will need to be cut then?  Maybe the City can stop giving away free down payments to the most expensive high-rise, luxury towers downtown ($7-8 million in that pot!)

  26. I have viewed this site many times.  I now feel it’s time to share some thoughts.  When I hired on 12 years ago I made decisions based on retirement, rules and being a good, loyal employee. All I can say is morale is at an all time low!  I followed the rules.  Why should Reed, Figone, and Constant change the rules under which I was hired?  Although I don’t like the idea of newer employees having a second tier while being expected to do the same work I think it’s a compromise.  It’s simply unfair to change the retirement, sick leave payout, and other benefits to current DEDICATED employees who have followed the rules.

    So, I ask a few questions.  Is it the worker bees who should be spanked for the city not placing adequate funds in the retirement funds when economics were rosier?  Is it the employees but pushed for a new City Hall that from the start 1) did not have adequate parking 2)has empty available retail space 3) had to be reconfigured because it was originally too tall ( didn’t the city have staff on board that knew the FAA rules before submitting plans that had to be re drawn and reconfigured?  Oh yeah, let’s just tell the FAA we made a mistake…can we get a waiver)

  27. ” This ( sick leave reforms ) notion might work in every department except for public safety. The reason for this is because public safety has something called minimum staffing. Personal time only works if there’s no one to tell you that you can’t take vacation time because of minimum staffing.

    Agreed – Most of public sees public safety as a more difficult, demanding and dangerous job so treats public safety as very differently than other government employees

    Even those who want to do away with collective bargaining for government employees because of unions political abuses of public trust and excessive pensions obligations recognize that public safety should have collective bargaining

    Only is San Jose is public safety daily vilified, criticized, unfairly accused, publicly beaten up, and when many false accusations are made immediately assumed guilty and treated as if guilty by Mayor, Council and public safety’s boss – City Manager and local anti public safety newsrag – Mercury News

  28. Sick leave cash outs are obviously a problem and extreme examples make the newspaper and leave everyone wondering what’s up with that.

    Simple, but bad fix, offer additional service credit in the pension plan in lieu of 100% sick leave cash outs.  Its already running a huge deficit with unfunded liabilities and poor return on investment, but giving someone with 28 years of service credit for 30 on the the pension is cheaper in the short term than hard cash in the final pay check.

    Also, a more rational approach to reform would allow some sick leave cash outs to reward those who don’t abuse (use every possible sick day as extra vacation) the time off, but cap it at 10-20% of sick time per year roll-over and have a max in the sick leave bank. 

    It also seems like prudent management to set aside the money for this as it accrues and put it in an interest earning vehicle so the city actually profits from sick leave banking (which will eventually be paid out only at the pay rate accrued and not the higher final salary figure.)

    San Jose is proving to be a great illustrative example of all the “not” best-practices in handling pensions, budgets, labor relations, succession planning, performance based-budgeting, cash management, contractor relations and meeting the expectations of stakeholders (voters and taxpayers?).

  29. Continued;

    How much are the residents on the hook for in bonding for the new city hall?  I think we can safely assume the Taj Ma-hall was nothing more to feed a very large ego.  Rotunda and all!  If the Council Chambers are empty most of the time why is it necessary for departments within city hall to pay rent to hold large meetings?  If city hall is for the public why are citizens charged to visit for business?  It seems like the Mayor, Council and city Administration wants to add to the outdated convention center, build a ball park, etc. but where are the funds to complete these projects?  Here’s a great idea.  Lets continue to hire consultants!  Lets see.  How about a consultant to find a new Chief of police?  A consultant to draw plans for a new city hall?  Why doesn’t the city hire a consultant to figure out what to do with the old city hall?  Here’s an idea.  Give it to the County.  Don’t we owe them hugh sums of money anyway?  Why is half of the city “E” parking lot still fenced and closed?  The other 1/2 of this lot is full CONSTANTLY!  The city would rather employ additional Parking Control checkers to routinely city PD staff for trying to park and get into work.  Makes absoutly no sense!

  30. ” How much are the residents on the hook for in bonding for the new city hall?  I think we can safely assume the Taj Ma-hall was nothing more to feed a very large ego.”

    Also look at political payoffs to:

    –  construction trades – thousands prevailing wage sof union construction jobs during a slow economy like airport expansion and 10 years of community centers, libraries, police and fire station construction jobs that city can not staff, pay to keep open and along with tax subsidies is part of reason for budget problems

    – Council’s many millions political payoffs to insider sweetheart construction contracts, economic development and many ex- political, city manager and city staff consultants, lobbyists with more millions for hidden political insider tax giveaways

    Council would have to blame themselves and City administration – not employees for budget and pension disasters and Council and City Manager can’t take blame they deserve

    – Now can’t have that can we – too much sunshine and open government can get insiders in trouble

    Remember San Jose’s 3 Political and City Hall Survival Rules: 

    –  What public doesn’t know, can’t hurt us

    –  It is always bad, bad, bad employees and public’s fault not the good, good, good Council

    –  Council can never blame city administration who knows what went on, who got tax millions and if blamed or fired will tell everyone about back room secret deals and hidden tax spending in San Jose city government

  31. “offer additional service credit in the pension plan in lieu of 100% sick leave cash outs.”

    I would jump on that in a heartbeat. If there was someway the sick leave could be rolled over into deferred comp, I would be all for it.

  32. I have been a CSJ Employee for a little over 5 years. Despite the consensus that I am both lazy and single handedly responsible for many public health crisis because I come to work when I have the sniffles , and given that accrued sick leave, infinite/exponentially expanding pension and inflated salary for riding the gravy train is single handedly responsible for the global economic meltdown, I am hoping that some company engaged in either “Green Technology” or high-tech including e-commerce or internet browsing might take interest in my unique skill set.

    My needs are simple – somewhere near my work station I will need access to free junk food including soda ( high octane stuff like MtnDew,Jolt,redBull.Monster…), candy, bagles w/assosrted smear, a decent coffee maker that grinds beans by for every individual serving and properly foams the milk (2% or non-fat only please) plus a wide assortment of tea’s grown from sustainable crops, harvested on low carbon foot print plantations that treat their sharecroppers ethically and have a profit-sharing plan.  I will also need a Gym with a personal trainer who is current in yoga, pilates
    AND Rolfing as well as capable of helping me shed all those pounds I currently carry as a result of the massive quantities of donuts my current job forces me to consume.  I will need a Responsible corporate sponsor willing to allow me to train for the IronMan and donate to my charity of choice. 

    When I am done working out, I will need a sauna, then a massage then a steam – with unisex facilities. My work out gear will need to be washed and pressed and ready for the next workout – my shoes will need to be aired. I will require a quiet room or sleeping pod -preferably a hyperbaric chamber for my 1.5 – 2.0 hour recovery naps.

    While I am napping, I will need my “go-to-work” clothes freshened up at the on-site cleaners so that they are ready when I awake. 

    I may have any number of personal errands that I may needto tend to during the course of the “work-day.” I would prefer to have on-site Doctors and Dentists available to me as well as specialists capable of performing “elective” cosmetic procedures on company time and paid leave (use-it or loose-it of course) to be used during the recovery.

    Back to my errands…. I will need a car provided by the company so that I may accomplish my “errands” without using energy that I have to pay for.
    Hybirds are preferred. I will need a parking space for my own car(s)thta includes a charging station for my electric.

    I really don’t want much just something similar to what the good folks at Google, Yahoo, Cisco and eBay have in fact only the best of what they have…. I want an employer paid 401k, generous stock plan and golden parachute should I ever be faced with being laid off (One Year Salary and unlimited access to all the aforementioned perqs for a period not longer than it takes to find employment with a company offering a similar “prima-donna package.”

    • Hooka,
      You wouldn’t be able to handle that job at Google, Yahoo, Cisco, or eBay. In addition to those benefits you tried to describe you would actually have to perform at above standard rates. You would have to work extra long hours with no overtime because you would be on salary. The reason those companies provide all those benefits is to keep the employees at their jobs longer. This is often 10 to 12 hour days. Based on the conversations employees of San Jose are making here, your job is something you all want to get away from as quickly as possible.

      The private sector has a place for work ethics like that, it is called the unemployement line.

      • No I rather like responding to reports of rapes,robberies, burglaries, felony assaults, murders, child molestations. the 911 mis-dials are pretty boring but traffic accidents especially the ones where people (sometimes really young people are maimed, dismembers and sometimes even dead are a real joy!  Crib deaths and pool drownings are lovely… suicides…. then there are the “out of control 8-18 year olds that parents call on – they expect me to work some real magic and fix in 15 minutes what they took years to bollocks-up.

        I relish the death cases even of the elderly – some of the most enjoyable are ones where some old man or woman has just lost their spouse of 25-50 years – the tears of joy that flow!!!

        Please explain what exactly is “unethical” about teh job I have done? I was hired and agreed to a contract. I upheld my part of that contract -you’ll have to take my word on that ( or not) but I have never had any complaints filed against me, haven’t had any issues that earns one a spot on the on the “Brady List” and have a jacket full of letters from people I did right by and awards from the Department , and City endorsed by none other than Mayor Reed, as well as the business community for just doing the job I was hired to do.  I also volunteer many hours of my time to various community groups plus raise a family.

        Since this discussion from folks who work in the private sector seems to center around the argument that ” it is unfair that workers in the private sector don’t get pay/pensions/benefits like workers in the public sector…” I think it is only fair to ask why public sector workers shouldn’t get pay and benefits similar to private sector employees like those at yahoo/google…. I mean if the point of those benefits is to keep people “at work longer” as you say , wouldn’t the taxpayers get more for their money???

        • One thing you will not hear from the halls of the police department is the sort of mindless intransigence in which Mayor Reed and the rest at City Hall would have you believe we indulge. This is simply not the case. One of the reasons you have not – and probably will not – see too many suggestions floated on SJI is that this blog has a fairly limited audience within the PD. Another reason is that contract negotiations are currently being conducted behind closed doors, so the people on our side who are doing the actual negotiations can’t really discuss the concessions being offered in the negotiation process.

          That being said, you need to understand the history of what has gone on in the last few years with respect to our pension fund, wages, and working conditions.

          1. Just a few years ago, the public safety retirement fund was fully funded and earning money hand over fist. In that time period, City Management, to include the City Council at the time (and, i believe Chuck Reed among them) collectively made the decision to divert the City’s contractually agreed-upon contribution to other ventures and expenses rather than allowing a reserve to accumulate or overfund the pension fund. This decision, NOT made by any of the public safety employees, is at the heart of why the Public Safety retirement fund is currently underfunded. This is a decision for which the City Council, the City Manager’s office and, by distant extension the citizens who placed those individuals into office, all share a collective responsibility. It is NOT, however, the fault of the employees as Reed et. al. would have everyone believe.

          2. Over the last few years the Police Department has seen it’s rolls decline by about 17%. This is a staggering reduction in the manpower of a Department which has never been staffed at levels approaching national averages. Presently, to the best of my information, San Jose has the lowest per capita ration of officers to citizens of any municipal police department in the nation. By comparison, San Francisco maintains a police department which is almost twice the size of San Jose’s with 80% of the population and compensates their officers at nearly the same levels that San Jose presently does.

          3. While Mayor Reed et. al. complain vociferously about wages and benefits, he fails to acknowledge other relevant concessions – largely to do with working conditions – which Police Officers made in the last contract which saved or had the potential to save the City significant amounts of money over time. One ready example of this is that we allowed for changes to the types of vehicles we patrol with. Personally, I have my doubts about the wisdom of using other types of less-expensive vehicles (and really, the Crown Victoria has been fairly cost-effective over time), but the concession was made and time will test the wisdom of the concession.

          3. Despite all the numbers being thrown around regarding our wages and benefits, the average take-home pay is substantially lower than you’d expect. Part of this is due to taxes, and part of this is due to the increase in retirement contributions. Mayor Reed et. al. (and especially PLO) have made a great deal of political hay over the 8:3 contribution ratio, but I looked at a recent paycheck and the reality is that it’s much closer to 3:2 right now with the city contributing around $1500/pay check and me contributing just under $1000 per pay check. My contribution is about $250/pay check more than it used to be and one of the reasons I am contributing more is precisely because the City failed to fulfill its contractual obligation as noted in item 1.

          4. The truth wrapped in a lie is still a lie. Lack of full disclosure is also a lie – particularly when this occurs in the public eye. Mayor Reed, PLO, and other public safety detractors have habitually and repeatedly disseminated partial information and lies. The assertions they made during the Measure V and W campaign were clearly lies as is proved by all the discussion of layoffs going on at present. City Hall has, in lockstep with political tradition, managed to sell the public THE BIG LIE, as it were, and public safety is paying the price – both with our wallets and with the esteem in which we have been held in the community.

          5. Lastly, in terms of our professionalism, the PD is doing just as good and professional a job as it always has. SJPD is, arguably, one of the most professional, competent and successful law enforcement organizations in the nation. There is no other police agency of which I am aware which does so much with so few resources. Now, with the hits to our pocket book and hits to our manpower, we are being asked to do even more with (and for) even less. Many of us are already living on the bubble, just barely within our means and have too much to lose if more is taken from our monthly income.

          We are willing to compromise. We are willing to negotiate in good faith, which the City has historically failed to do. What we are not willing to do is trust Mayor Reed, the City Council, or the City Manager’s office. We’ve been lied to and stabbed in the back by them one too many times.

        • I am glad that you truly love your job, or perhaps you are just being a little sarcastic? It is difficult to tell on a blog like this.

          In either event, the problem with the Cities current payroll policies is that they are not sustainable. I would prefer that we cut all services except the beat cops. However, for some reason that does not seem to be possible. I never hear any city employee offering other possible solutions, just complaining and threatening to take all their sick leave unless they can have some sort of massive payout.

          With housing prices cut in half and as a result the revenue that comes from the property taxes, The City is going to be facing massive budget shortfalls for a long time to come. This City like so many others spent way too much on unnecessary luxuries that we cannot afford anymore. Every program and project was a good idea at the time. It is just that no one ever thought things would be this bad.

          What happened to the individuals who worked at ENRON. They lost everything. It wasn’t their fault, but they suffered the consequences of other rotten people. All of the city employees and unions should be working together to find a way to make the City whole. To do otherwise is just plain foolish.

          I read on another blog that Santa Clara Fire Department has significantly less man power on a fire engine than San Jose. Another waste of money I see is the VTA outreach vehicles. Let people call a taxi instead of the county paying for the vehicles and man power to operate them. Why don’t we look at things like this to close the budget gap?

          I really do not know what the answers are, but the problem is very obvious. If the workers would use these blogs to float real ideas perhaps real solutions could be found that work for the tax payers and the employees.

          By the way, Thank you for all that you and your fellow officers do for us on a daily basis. I really do appreciate your personal sacrifice and service.

        • “I really do not know what the answers are, but the problem is very obvious. If the workers would use these blogs to float real ideas perhaps real solutions could be found that work for the tax payers and the employees.”

          There are a lot of wonderful ideas within these blogs. But “they” are not going to listen to them. Chuck is so set out to do damage to the employee that he so despises that he can’t see much past what he can do to accomplish that goal. I’m sure the employees would forgo any kind of salary increase for the next 5 years to avoid other take aways. That five years of salary savings would be a nice chunk of money toward helping to reduce the budget deficit. There is more that can be done rather than causing so much damage to the employee. Instead of the public being against us, we should all come together and stand together to figure out how to make this work. Number one, the current administration, needs to go. We need to get people in there who know what they are doing and who are more employee friendly. The mayor needs to be recalled so we can get to work on starting to rebuild this City. It will not be done with that cancer in the way. How can a City function correctly when you have a head person in charge who hates the employees? It doesn’t work. They are always going to be knocking heads. The current administration cannot be trusted. If you can’t trust your administration to do the right thing, then again, heads are going to knock. Get the right people in their to run this City and the City will come back. We need administration who know what they are doing and who are not looking to cause friction between the employees and the citizens in order to get what they want.

  33. Truth – ” You can’t tell me that these fixed costs could not be forecasted better.”

    It is way beyond if city management knew about future high city costs

    City management has a serious conflict of interest and ignored future high employee costs because

    management also got higher pay, increased benefits and pensions and knew that once granted, in California they could not legally be taken away

    City government failed voters and taxpayers first in their city responsibilities and second in their personal conflicts of interest

  34. I was an officer back in 1992 when the city, in lieu
    of offering a raise to officers for a couple years, asked us to agree to the current sick leave policy.

    This policy, over the past 20 years, has encouraged officers to come into work when they were sick or injured. This policy, saved the city from hiring hundreds of additional officers.

    Now, 20 years later when the city has to pay out the money at retirement age nears for many, it wants to change the rules.

    To those that think it is acceptable to default on an obligation, I hope you are at least consistent when the money is not there to pay your 401k or social security. This is all a very slippery slope. Hopefully, you are ok with your parents having their retirements and social security yanked and moving in with you. Or the more likely scenario, you having your job shipped overseas and the company you work for defaulting on your 401k.

  35. Looks like city is moving ahead with eliminating all sick leave payouts starting July 1, 2011.  Check out the city’s website under labor negotiations and you will see that they are putting proposals across the table to all the unions.  Since all non-public safety unions can be imposed on by the council, time to kiss those sick leave payouts goodbye. That will encourage a few more staff to take early retirement.

    • That’s okay. I’m already figuring out my sick vacation. Two weeks here, one week there. I will actually enjoy the time off. I don’t know what I was thinking by trying to be a good employee and going to work, everyday. I am going to enjoy this time off, and there is nothing they can do about it. It’s my sick time. I earned it. If I say I don’t feel well, then I don’t feel well…wink wink. Maybe I’ll take 6 weeks off and get a little eye touch up. Thanks to all of you who made me see the light. You were right, I was wrong. Use the sick leave.

  36. San Jose Police Union Launches Campaign To Stop Cuts

    “My message to our city leadership is simply this: no cuts to police, period,” officers’ association president George Beattie said at a news conference this afternoon at the vacant Southside Police Substation.

    The facility, Beattie said, is brand new and was paid for with taxpayer funds, but there are not enough police officers to staff it”

    “He called a proposal made to the City Council by the city manager’s office last week to eliminate nearly 350 officers “irresponsible and reckless,” saying that doing so would bring the department’s staff down to fewer than 900 cops and place the safety of residents at risk.”

    ” The citizens of San Jose do not fully understand what the mayor and the city’s administration are proposing,” he said. “If they did, they would be outraged.”


    Watch for City Hall counterattack with a Mercury News Editorial broadside against unions while not mentioning the true causes of budget deficits

    Hint It is not city employees or resident’s fault but decade of city mismangement, millions reckless non core city spending, unnecessary city construction and political insider deals and paybacks

  37. I will also endorse the retirement service credit option.  State and most local government agencies contract with CalPERS already have that system in place. 


    CalPERS is not without its own issues.  But at least it’s an outside 3rd parties.  Local governments that manage their own retirement plans often sidetracked by shortsighted management and employee groups and get in much bigger trouble.  I think in long term, CSJ is better off contracting with CalPERS rather than running its own plan.

  38. Pier,
    There is a very obvious solution for the police department if the city does not want to abide by the agreement to pay officers for unused sick time. This solution would also save at least 100 new officers from being laid off.

    If an officer is within a year or two of retiring, let them apply their unused sick leave to buy down part of their remaining time. This would accelerate some retirements while letting the city avoid paying out a lump sum figure. It would also keep a new officer who is working at a lower salary. This idea makes too much sense that I doubt the city manager or Reed would go for it.

    • I like that one, too. I wish they would do a golden handshake. They would get rid of the highest paid employees. Employees who retire early will save them just that much in salaries and sick pay over the amount of years they would have stayed had the golden handshake not been offered. You’re right. It makes so much sense, they’ll never go for it. But that’s what fortune 500 companies do.

  39. In other news, two SJPD officer and a sergeant were injured downtown when a DUI driver craved into a patrol car while the PD was investigating a shooting downtown last night. Are ther any other jobs in which the risk of this sort of thing is routine? Why doesn’t the city speak frankly about the number of injuries suffered by public safety annually?

  40. Pierluigi – you have some interesting ideas and are getting much feedback. Let me add my two cents.
    A Correction – you said in your statement – “If the City must pay out another $14 million in sick leave this year that means we do not have $14 million to employ police or librarians to provide services to residents. “
    While on a simple level, it is true that if you spend money on one thing, you can’t spend that same money on something else.  however it is not correct to say that if this $14 million goes to city employees, that means that the City cannot pay for its police or librarians.  This statement parrots the falsehoods that Chuck Reed and the City Manager have been telling the public, which is intended to get the public enraged against City employees. Here are some facts and questions that I think that you should be asking:
    1.The City in FY 2009-2010 had a budget of 1.7 Billion – yes that is with a capital B.  $14 million is a lot of money, but in proportion to the overall City budget, it is minor.  You are essentially saying that City Council can’t find any money in a nearly 2 billion dollar budget to cover a $14 million cost? come on.
    2. Taxpayers have been given the false impression that most of the City budgetis spent on employee compensation – that is not even close to true. Employee compensation, even using the City’s inflated employee compensation numbers, is not even one third of the overall annual City budget. 
    3.Another confusion in the City’s materials – Not all city employees are paid for with general funds and not all general funds are from taxes.  Many employees are paid from special funds – funds which can only be used for a specific purpose. Savings in these funds cannot just be shifted to pay for other costs and services. This even includes the salaries and benefits of some librarians. For example – city staff at the airport are paid from airport revenues – if you cut costs for airport employees, you cannot use that money on non airport purposes – like costs for more police, longer hours at community centers and libraries or road maintenance. Second example – public works or transportation staff who work on capital improvement projects (a major category of the city budget is Capital projects) – to the extent that their salary is paid for from state or federal grants – laying them off does not free up money for anything other than the purpose of the grant – the specific construction project funded by the grant.  So it is incorrect to say that savings from laying off or cutting the salaries of those employees will somehow pay for community centers, libraries and other community services.
    4.How many City employee costs are paid for by special, restricted purpose funds? You won’t find it in the City’s materials so we don’t know.  This illustrates one of the reasons is that crude- across the board cuts can be counter productive- you may be cutting some costs but unable to use the savings where you want to.  By the way, Chuck Reed is aware of this concept when it suits him   – when asked to stop the boon doggle financing of a convention center expansion – he responded that the convention center project would be funded by municipal bonds and those bond funds cannot be used for other purposes. 
    5.Don’t be fooled by the City’s “employee compensation” costs either.  That sounds like take home pay and benefits for current employees – however, the numbers are inflated. The City usually glosses over any amounts that the employees pay toward their benefits – even though it reduced the net pay to the employee.  Then the administration adds in an amount to cover the City’s unfunded liability costs to “employee compensation” – even though most of those costs have nothing to do with the current employees, but are really the City’s attempt to make up for their own failure to fund the City’s obligations for retirees and prior City employees who left the City (gee who can blame them?).

    If you don’t have the answers, you should ask for a public breakdown of the unfunded liability costs that are directly attributable to current employees and those that are not attributable to benefits for former employees. Then at least the data will be less misleading.
    6.The unfunded liability is a somewhat imprecise concept and the appropriate contribution rates are currently being debated by the experts without an ax to grind – even the use of the term “unfunded liability” has been criticized as being an overstatement. 

    The unfunded liability is not the same as a mortgage payment – which is often used by the City to illustrate the issue. A mortgage payment is due at a set payment amount – if I fail to make even just one mortgage payment in full and on time, I can be declared in default, my entire mortgage can become due and I can lose my house.  This analogy is intentionally used by the City because it is very scary stuff. 
    However, it is not really analogous to the City’s pension obligations and in particular, with regard to retiree healthcare. Unlike with a mortgage, the City has a great deal of latitude in when and how much the City will pay each year – and the City will not lose the house if it decides to take a longer term approach to make up the shortfall or unfunded liability during an economic downturn.  San Jose’s stands almost alone in its hyper aggressive approach toward funding these obligations- which of course makes this year’s unfunded liability costs seem higher than they should or could be. 
    7.be very careful in saying that the City can remove or change employee benefits. The law doesn’t back you up on many of your proposals – and no one will be happy if the City has to use big bucks to pay expensive lawyers only to lose a big lawsuit.

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