Saturday, April 17, 2010

County cuts retirement benefits

April 17, 2010, 02:54 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

San Mateo County is tweaking retirement benefits for managers and attorneys over the next three years to help close an ongoing budget deficit — amendments that could leave them with paying a portion of the benefits, dropping older dependents from insurance coverage and working less hours.

The changes — which County Manager David Boesch conceded “may be a hardship” in a memo to the affected workers — pencils out to an average of 1.75 percent of pre-tax gross pay for most. The county currently pays 100 percent of the employees’ share for manager and attorney retirement benefits but as of May 2 will drop to 75 percent each pay period.

Aside from cutting retirement contributions, Boesch’s March 25 memo said the county is considering a number of cost containment strategies based in part on a July 2009 survey in which employees were asked what they prefer to do to help meet budget targets. The most significant include encouraging managers and attorneys to take voluntary time off of 3 percent of total work hours, increasing employee contributions to the retirement cost of living allowance, reducing the maximum age for dependent health coverage, instituting new retirement tiers for new hires and consolidating health insurance carriers.

The time-off provision would be voluntary but if all chose the option, the county would save approximately $2.7 million annually. Dropping the age maximum for dependents on a health plan could save the county $1 million per year. Hiking copays for doctor visits and lab work could save the county $1.8 million and new retirement tiers for new hires could save the county $5 million annually by year 10 and $12 million annually by year 20.

Although Boesch and the Executive Committee approved the recommendations, many can only be implemented as a result of negotiations with employee organizations.

Changes like that of dependent age limits have been approved by the employee organizations and became effective April 1.

At its Tuesday, April 13 meeting, the Board of Supervisors adopted revised resolutions establishing new salary and benefits for management, attorneys and confidential employees for the period of Nov. 1, 2009 through Oct. 31, 2010, said county spokesman Marshall Wilson.

“Everybody realizes these are difficult times,” he said.


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