San Luis Obispo employee union agrees to new contract

June 13, 2012

After nine months and an impasse, San Luis Obispo’s largest employee group and city management reached a tentative agreement following a fact finding hearing where it was revealed that the city of San Luis Obispo has $63 million in cash and $20 million in reserves.

Members of City Employees Union have agreed to pay the employee portion of their retirement compensation, which would amount to an 8 percent compensation reduction.

As part of the agreement, city management agreed to increase health insurance compensation to mirror that given to the city’s police and fire employees, a 50/50 cost sharing.

Of the 144 members in the union, 139 voted on the proposed agreement. Of those, 101 voted in favor of the proposal and 38 voted to reject it.

In February, San Luis Obispo city Manager Katie Lichtig announced negotiations with the employees’ union had stalled and that their bargaining efforts were at an impasse. On June 1, at the fact finding hearing regarding the contentious negotiations, Lichtig testified that the city had $83 million in cash and reserves.

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I remember that City leaders a few years ago (apx. 2006) held “Town Hall” meetings, issued press releases and campaigned under the pretenses that the City needs at a minimum a ½ cents sales tax increase (Measure Y) to maintain basic services and add other necessary services. This was all done under the pretenses that the City had no money! Fast forward nearly six years later and it was revealed by Steve B. in the Tribune a few months ago that the City had either $73 or $78 million dollars in a secret investment fund, plus $20 million in reserves. Now we find out in this article that the City has $63 million dollars in cash. My questions to Ms. Litchtig are as follows: (1) Where did this mass fortune come from? (2) Did Measure Y funds contribute to this slush fund? (3) What are the plans for this slush or investment fund – are these funds just surplus property to be taken for scrap? Lastly, how dare you and your top leaders deceive the public to secure a sales tax increase under false pretenses! No wonder the Chamber won’t support the Measure Y initiative now and no wonder the San Luis Obispo Property Owners Association headed by Stephen Baraasch are in opposition to such a ballot initiative. Maybe this is how things are done down in Beverly Hills, but not here in SLO. We want honest, responsible City leaders who we can trust. By the way, Council and the Mayor had to play a significant role in this rouse. Let’s send them all packing and bring in people who are accountable to us – the citizens of SLO.

So what was the ratio of health insurance compensation before? I’m surprised the health insurance contribution wasn’t a straight cafeteria benefit before. If an employee has a spouse and two kids with a higher health insurance premium, did that employee cost the city more than a single employee with no dependents?

The insurance package was a cafeteria plan, The plan consists of “x” amount of mone for the employee plus family, dental, and vision. Let’s assume that is around $1200 a month, For the family that is actually paying that, the Ciity will now pay 50% of it. For the employee;s not using the full $1200 a month, the get to pocket anything not used over the $600, Really sweet deal for the employee only and especially the employee not using the benefit at all because a “spouse” has insurance at their employment and covers the City employee’s medical requirement meaning that employee takes home $600 extra per month, even sweeter deal! The City should cover only the employee ($600 a month), no spliting of the fee and the employee can chose to cover his family or not. No payoff for unused benefit.

Question: Was any law broken by the city manager in apparently attempting to keep the amount of cash and reserves out of the negotiations? Did our city attorney knowingly work with the city manager to keep these amounts from being discovered? If so, would that rise to the legal definition of “collusion”? I am encouraged to see that so many of those city employees understood that they are going to have to settle for some reductions to their pay, given the current atmosphere of down right hatred of anyone and everything about “government workers”. Hopefully our city can move forward and keep from spending any more taxpayer dollars on unnecessary and/or stupid expenses.

Although it is not really funny, considering it is the taxpayers money that is getting spent; but I would

make a sizable wager that Paso Robles has outdone SLO on spending money on unnecessary and/or stupid expenses. As to the city employees understanding they will have to pay more to keep feeding at the public trough; just look at what San Diego or San Jose has done recently concerning

pensions, health benes, etc. The writing is on the wall – the feeding must be slowed down. Why should a public employee be treated so much better that any private employee?