Great passion for city employees, city services
I love living in the city of Benicia. I do not think I am alone. We enjoy great services: parks, the library, the swimming pool and way more. Most are supplied by our very fine city employees. But we must be reminded who gets hit the hardest when the mayor/council fails to do proper budget planning: City employees.
A few years back, the city employees were hit with a 10 percent reduction in salary and benefits over a two-year period. Many employees will not be around to recover from that and be able to bring their take-home payback to what it was in 2010/2011. They will be retired. That’s how long it will take for recovery.
Let’s take a look at two of those cuts. These cuts represent about 75 percent of employees. The other 25 percent were also impacted. First, let’s use the average of $70,000 salary per year. We know the salary will vary up or down for this group, but $70,000 is a good illustration. At that salary they were paying 1 percent toward their share of CalPERS. That was $700 per year or $58 per month. They now pay the full 8 percent of $5,600 or $466 per month. That is a decrease of $408 per month of take home pay.
Now let’s look at health care. The city offered a Kaiser plan with no employee contribution plus no co-payments. Most of these employees took this plan rather than another one offered. Now most are paying on average about $252 per month without the same co-pay benefits. That is another decrease in take home pay. They both add up to $660 per month.
Now you tell me how any Benicia resident would like a decrease in take-home pay of $660 per month. They would not, and some very big personal sacrifices would have to be made.
Now this mayor/council is looking at cutting the city employee force and possibly having city employees pay part of the city side of the employer share of CalPERS. Cuts in staff are another hit on our very fine city employees. It will also reduce city services. To what extent, I do not know.
This is the result of very poor planning by the mayor/council and who gets hit very hard again: city employees and now city services.
Services are another thing that all residents enjoy and use. Just what city services do you think most residents want cut? Try very few, if any. We deserve and enjoy them all. Increase in city fees.What now, a co-pay for visiting a city department? Increase fees at the swimming pool? Maybe a fee for using a library computer or just using the library?Increase in business license tax? Remember they do bring in tax revenue to the city.
I say do away with the council salary/benefits for the next four years. That is about a savings of $100,000 per year. Not bad. I would support that. I like Councilmember Campbell’s idea of charging Amports $5 a year per car unloaded. He stated about $150,000 a year. I do think it should be more, say $10 per car. Now that is some badly needed money to the tune of $1,500,000 per year. I like that idea very much, but that is a stretch and will likely not happen.
This council is going to review all options, but they have very few to increase revenue stream. It will narrow down to city employees and city services. Just what is this mayor/council thinking? This issue not only happened in the recent past and was never fixed, we are at it again with no sign of it going away. I put most of the blame on Mayor Patterson for not using her so-called leadership skills to attack this financial issue. I am sure most of you remember when we had a $1.2 million fix, and the mayor said the budget was balanced. Guess what? It was not. Another more than $2 million unfunded was discovered. That was the beginning of a lot of pain that is not going away.
It is about time to get a very strong economic plan in place and for sure not the Wolf $605,000 cost. It will take money, but if this had been done a few years back we could be reaping some needed revenue flow.
Mayor Patterson, show us you are not a one-trick pony on water issues. I will be watching as this moves forward and will write about it as needed. “The Owl” is always watching. Stay tuned.
Bob “The Owl” Livesay,