Council’s lasting legacy lies in arena of public pension reform

With City Manager Tom Haglund at the forefront of meetings
between city leaders in the county on pension reduction options,
the Gilroy City Council should take a stance now: No new contracts
will be signed that do not include a two-tier pension system.
News of the upcoming public pension crisis has been circulating for some time, but the reports have become clearer and more focused in the last year.

With City Manager Tom Haglund at the forefront of meetings between city leaders in the county on pension reduction options, the Gilroy City Council should take a stance now: No new contracts will be signed that do not include a two-tier pension system.

It’s not a line in the sand, it’s a reality check. Honestly, the city cannot afford to do anything less. Certainly, the pension obligations in place are just that – unless, of course, the city goes broke. But the city is rapidly headed toward a financial reality that will heavily sacrifice the community good in order to maintain generous lifestyles for its retirees.

Not being able to afford a police officer on the street because the city is supporting a generous retirement for others who have moved away is a lousy way to run a city.

Public pension abuses are rampant. Gilroy is hardly immune from the plethora of pension abuses. It has to stop.

The Council should start at the bottom by comparing wages and benefits in the private sector to those in City Hall and adjusting where necessary.

Then, all defined-benefit pension plans should be closed and all new employees – including public safety employees – should be required to contribute to their plans which should be defined-contribution plans. That should include post-employment benefits, such as health and dental care.

Adopt a policy against double dipping. The city should not hire retirees from other public organizations. Retiring at 52 from, for example, the San Jose Fire Department and working in Gilroy for another 10 years just milks the system regardless of the qualifications of the employee.

These are all common sense applications to bring public pension offerings into the real world. The City Council should move swiftly and decisively to make it clear that those in power now will not leave a legacy of financial doom for those who follow.

The Gilroy this Council shapes today in terms of public pension reform will have a lasting impact on what our city is able to accomplish decades into the future.

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