Pink Slips and Pension Reform

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with a new proposal put forward by the Police Officers Association in labor negotiations with the city.

More than 100 police officers are being notified that they could be out of a job come July.

In the 10th year of budget cuts, San Jose City manager Debra Figone has said more than 600 employees could lose their jobs to help tackle a $115 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year. The Mercury News reports that 106 officers are receiving pink slips.

The process will take several days to complete because officers are getting notification when they come in for their shifts, said Jim Unland, vice president of the Police Officers Association.

Figone’s office has said many of the employee layoffs likely to occur are unrelated to the 10 percent cut in total compensation being asked of city workers. Even if all 11 unions agree to the compensation cuts, it would only come out to roughly $38 million in savings. On Monday, the POA submitted its first labor negotiations proposal to the city. The POA then gave the city a new proposal on Friday.

Pension reform continues to be the elephant in the room in almost all city labor negotiations; without it the city will continue to fall deeper into debt.

Mayor Chuck Reed and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen announced on Thursday a proposal for a ballot measure that would address disability retirement abuses by police officers and firefighters. The City Council will discuss the proposal on Tuesday.

A city audit showed that San Jose has an unusually high amount of sworn officers going on disability despite working full time when they retired. The Mercury News reports that officers and firefighters who retire on disability receive an average tax break of $16,000.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.


  1. I have NEVER seen a city DEMONIZE their police officers and firefighters like this mayor, city manager, and council have. I utterly regret coming here, as do countless laterals who were appreciated far more in their original agencies. This city has managed to make a tough job even more difficult.

    Funny,…I understand when a gangster or other violent criminal hates me and would kill me if he could in a violent confrontation. I never thought I would feel that same hatred from this city goverment and citizens who rushed measures V & W through passage. It had been a point of pride to tell other officers you worked for SJPD. Now I am embarrassed to admit I work for the CSJ. Now,…officers in other cities ask in amazement why our own mayor and city council hate us so much. And now,…10% less to work in a city pathetically understaffed as I continue to pay an absurd 22% of my income to retirement?! I HATE THIS CITY,…thanks mayor for making me feel so valued as an employee.

  2. Councilman Pete Constant is the poster child of what is wrong with the disability retirement system.  Pete is bashing the system yet he is not complaining that he is receiving his 50% tax free service disability from the same city he again by double dipping and receiving an addition 80K as he sits on the city council.  Apparently all this extended sitting and riding his bike to work one day a year, all for the cameras doesn’t bother his injured back that he claims led to his disability retirement from the police department.  If his back has healed maybe Pete should consider switching to a service retirement and save the city some additional funds before he votes to lay off 106 able bodied officers.

  3. Police Officers and Fire Fighters deserve fair compensation, but no city can afford to pay them an unlimited amount.  In San Jose, the current compensation, coupled with costs associated with the widespread abuses such as the disability scam, is not sustainable.  The market speaks clearly on this – hundreds and hundreds apply. 

    Police and Fire provide a great service to the city, and we should honor and respect what they do for us, but if the inherent danger of the job is the criterion, we should keep in mind that these are not the most dangerous professions. 

    It seems there is a solution here – a compensation package that still attracts and retains well qualified men and women, and provides for them a good living, but does not bankrupt the City.

    • “Police Officers and Fire Fighters deserve fair compensation, but no city can afford to pay them an unlimited amount.”

      If you think “unlimited” police and fire compensation are the cause of budget problems for this city you are far from a voice of reason. WE are nowhere near “unlimited”. In fact we are nowhere near competitive in this area. The word is out. STAY FAR AWAY FROM SJPD. IN SJ YOU ARE HATED, DEMONIZED, AND AN ENEMY OF CITY HALL. MANY, MANY CITIZENS HATE YOU AND THOSE THAT APPRECIATE YOU ARE A SILENCED MINORITY.

      You want to talk about solutions to the problem. How about the how we got into this mess. FYI, SJPD and SJFD did not cause this worldwide recession. NO ONE has held this mayor, manager, or city council accountable for their spending decisions. Police and Fire have become a convenient scapegoat. Our compensation is at the bottom of this industry. After our next salary cut, including the ABSURD amount we contribute to retirement, we will be at the bottom of the barrel. We have no unform allowance yet are expected to buy and maintain mandatory uniforms and boots. A VAST majority of agencies make SOME contribution in this regard. WE are NOT the CAUSE of this cities financial woee. POOR FINANCIAL PLANNING AND MISMANAGEMENT BY CITY HALL HAVE BROUGHT US TO THIS POINT.

      • I do not think it is reasonable to work for 30 years, retire as young as 50, and then receive 90% of your salary escalating at 3% for the rest of your life.  The calculates to 121% after 10 years and 163% after 20 years.  And this is regardless of the economy and does not include tax calculations, which makes the increase even more. 

        I do not hold any public safety personnel responsible for this situation, I believe they are entitled to a good pension, I recognize that the recession has exacerbated the problem, and I welcome a healthy debate on public policy decisions.

        However, this compensation equation is not affordable.

        • “I do not think it is reasonable to work for 30 years, retire as young as 50, and then receive 90% of your salary escalating at 3% for the rest of your life.”

          What you people are not getting and what has been stated time and time again is that very, very few officers retire at 30 years. 30 year retirements are not the norm. MANY of the officers are worn out before that time. And remember that they have to be at least 21 when they are hired, but the majority are older than that. Why can’t you all STOP being sheeple and try to think for yourselves? One person starts it and everybody follows in behind, without doing any fact finding; just taking someone’s word and running with it, so they can beat down on the public employee.

        • You’re talking about a very tiny percentage of people, police or fire, who started their current jobs when they were 20, and have 30 years of service by the time they are 50.  It’s a negligible amount of people, but one that politicians trying to grab scary facts out of a grab bag like to use.  Working the same job for 30 years is something few people in San Jose can relate to. During the dotcom boom and other economic happy days here in this valley, we have been free to chase stock options and perks galore, to flee bad commutes and bad bosses, search for new meaning, all while our first responders have stuck it out.  If you’re worried about it being sustainable, fear not.  The current generation of youngsters in the ranks are unlikely to opt for the long haul of these jobs like the generations before them. But I believe we will pay a price for that, in lost experience.

        • John,
          Police officers in San Jose must serve a minimum of 10 years and be at least 55 years old to collect a pension. There is no retiring for 5 years of service in the police department. Please inform yourself of the actual numbers rather than throw out hyperbole.

        • Tom,
          There was no hyperbole. I was unaware of the 10 year minimum. Can you direct me to a document that accurately describes the terms of the retirement system? Article 49 of the Memorandum of Agreement between the City and the Union makes no mention of any such limitation.

        • Big Picture,
          Contrary to what you think, some of us are well aware that the 50 year old 90% retiree is a rare, probably even non-existent, exception.
          What would surprise me is if many employees with 5, 10, 15, or 20 years of service DIDN’T decide to hang it up early. It’s only natural that most would, at some point in their career, make the calculation that even a partial GUARANTEED pension will afford them a comfortable retirement or a substantial supplement to a new career.
          It could be that this retirement system actually serves as an incentive to entice officers away from our police force just about when they are beginning to gain the experience and knowledge that would make them truly exceptional.

        • Easy to find. Just go to the city website and they have each of the contracts for each union. Click on the one you are curious about.

      • “NO ONE has held this mayor, manager, or city council accountable for their spending decisions.”

        This bothers me, as well. I wonder why everyone is just ignoring this? It should be looked into, to find out where the taxpayers money went, yet everyone seems to be ignoring it. It needs to be brought out. A detailed account of where the money went should be shown to the public. A forensic accountant should be hired to go in and search the City’s records and find what money is there and where money was spent. People REALLY need to know the true condition the City is in. They say they are broke but yet still spending. Where is the transparency?

  4. “A city audit showed that San Jose has an unusually high amount of sworn officers going on disability despite working full time when they retired.”

    Does this include wrestling, working part time and running your own business…AND collecting a city disability pension?????????????????????? Anybody smell something?

  5. Only 1 out of each 3 is a cop. The rest are firefighters. You know the guys that sleep on duty and play volleyball after they shine their trucks. Right before dinner and a movie. The cops are the ones who have to wrestle with the mentally ill crackheads that just robbed the poor elderly lady to feed their drug habit. That’s why so many of them sustain career ending knee, back and shoulder injuries. Abuse? That’s pete the part time cop drawing two Paychecks constant biting the hand that feeds him. Let’s tell the Whole story for once. Why has nobody asked about Reed diverting over 900.000.000 a year into a dying airport. If we are so broke shouldn’t airport upgrades n facelifts wait a year or three? I personally am tired of waiting an hour and a half to have my 911 calls handled and then be told that although a report will be written nobody is available to conduct the investigation to solve the crime. But if I could afford a vacation I could marvel at the ugly new terminal at silicon valley airport you know the SFO knock off named after some politician nobody remembers any more.
    Seriously what the hell is our council thinking??  The Cambrian coalition for responsible government has hit it breaking point. We will now became Very involved in next years council elections. Council beware, if the murder and gang crime rates continue we will be coming for you council seats next year. Period!!

  6. The city should be quite happy. The police officers union, in an attempt to again be “reasonable”, will continue to give back pay and benefits to the city, as they have done the last few contracts. Next year, the city, media, and even some police officers, will forgot this years attempt to be reasonable, and the city and police union will do this same dance, and yet more will be given back. The city has done a masterful job of pitting the new and veteran officers, those that have a few years to retiring and those that have a career ahead of them, and placing what is important to them at odds with each other. It is disgraceful and disgusting. They have used the very personality traits that make a good police officer, that of being reasonable, giving and doing the right thing, and used these traits to divide the members and get them to take whatever offer the city makes.

  7. A lot of city employees. police and fire officers are taking 10% reduction in pay and increase in their pension contributions personally and are angry at Mayor Reed, Council and City Manager Figone for asking for giveback to balance budget  

    What other budget choices dooes City have ? None or unions would of brought them to Council   City has wasted millions of taxes but that money is spent

    How did San Jose and many other cities get into this unsustainable budget problem – because government employee unions elected politicians who then gave government employees unsustainable pay and pensions

    Government employee unions and their politicians need to take responsibility for creating state and city budget crisis

    Residents are paying more and more while getting less and less

    Unions need to be part of the budget solution rather than create more budget problems than unions already have

    If city employees disagree that tell us how you would solve budget problems without raising already high taxes

    • We have worked to be part of the solution. We have had give backs the last two contracts. Two years ago we agreed to give back 5% to prefund our retiree healtcard. If we now give back 10% more that will equal a 15% paycut to help the city. The city and even some police officers have completely forgot we have already given back 5%. We have also had our uniform and gear fund taken away which every other department offers. We have also agreed to much higher health care costs.

      We can work for free, and the city has done nothing to stop the problem of their addiction of spending money on billion dollar pet projects. Also, I have not seen our city council and city manager take another paycut. Last year, the city manager made 352,000 dollars.

      • Holy $#@t! I almost did not realize Cty Mgr Deb Figone made $352,000.00 last year!! OMG,…the hypocrisy is blinding me. Can’t wait to see match our givebacks,…NOT.

    • “If city employees disagree that tell us how you would solve budget problems without raising already high taxes”

      IF you would read through MANY of these blogs, you will see that we have already answered that question…but nobody listens and they are too hardheaded to take those wonderful suggestions into consideration. They will do what they want to do. There are MANY wonderful ideas throughout this blog. It just takes a lot of reading. Try it.

    • Upset Resident, I relate. The Mayor and Council have done a great job making it seem as if attacking employee unions are their only way out. Here are two facts to chew on:  1) The city of San Jose and many other municipalities are experiencing right now the “long tail” of economic ruin that hit the private sector starting in the fall of 2008. That’s when every single asset class of investment was hit and caught most everyone—you and me, and a bunch of banks, too—by surprise. There is a long tail of this hitting the cities because of the deep pockets they have, also known as our tax dollars. So, have you noticed that many asset classes have returned for the rest of us?  These are what get recognized as economic recovery, and while it’s not complete, anyone with revenues the size of San Jose’s will recover as well if they are patient. But they are not patient are they? They are political. This brings me to my next point. 2) The city very neatly divides its budget expenditures into three buckets, one which they call Capital Funds (28%), one which they call the General Fund (29%) and one which they call Special Funds (43%).  They have chosen to focus their efforts on the General Fund, keeping many very fancy and very unnecessary projects in the Capital Fund and Special Fund budgets.  The reason for this is that in a few cases, there are bond dollars at work which by law cannot be spent anywhere else.  But there are also many dollars there—the majority in fact—which are not bond dollars.  They are just dollars that the city wants to spend on new projects because they’ve already promised the contracts and the work and a bunch of campaign-friendly contractors and developers who are counting on them. This wholesale bid by the mayor and a couple of what I’ll call impressionable cohorts, to demonize our first reponders, is politics.

  8. sell the damn moth balled police sub station that will never be opened due to a shortage of personnel and save 92 Million Heck, why not just turn over policing to the county like you going to do at the airport.  Seems the major and council no longer call about public safety anyway.

  9. Why is everyone always yelling at the police? This is a dangerous job. Just last weekend there was a shooting in Almaden Valley at Redmond and Meridian. You don’t see that in the Murky News, do you?

    As the economy squeezes more and more people out of a job, people are going to get more desperate and attack the weak. Just look at Argentina!

    We are fortunate that the huge majority of our officers are honest. There is a guy in Argentina who has a blog ( and the USA is following Argentina’s lead in collapse. He has so much respect for officers in the USA, cf to Argentina..

    I do not understand why we are paying for “airport art”, “community art” the office of cultural affairs, the boondoggle of the new city hall, the new vacant mammoth empty airport, whilst not keepign our police dept adequately staffed.

    • I think we’re all agreeing here: Enough already. The city needs to leave the general fund—and the service levels, salaries and contracts of both the cops and the firefighters, alone.
      If cuts still need to be made, the citizens are asking the city and mayor, again and again, to look within the nice-to-haves in those other two big buckets they seem unwilling to discuss: Capital Improvement Projects and the aptly named “special” funds—where 71% of the budget lives and breathes. But they don’t seem to be listening.

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