Balanced budget approved

City of Rocklin employees receive cost of living increase
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Rocklin City Council members unanimously approved a $41 million balanced operating budget Tuesday night. They also adopted a new contract giving city employees a 1.5 percent cost of living increase. The budget does not pull on cash reserves, but rather sets aside about $10,000 into reserves while maintaining a 25 percent general fund operating reserve. ?The reason we have a balanced budget is because of the efficiencies we?ve brought to bear,? City Manager Rick Horst said. Mayor Brett Storey proclaimed it a ?wonderful budget.? In addition to millions in cost savings measures, the city has eliminated 77 full time positions since 2007, cut salaries by 5 percent and instituted 13 staff furlough days per year. ?People all around the area, Elk Grove and Stockton, need to know that there are governments that can budget things and we have employees that work with us to help,? City Council member George Magnuson said. Council members also approved a three-year contract with city?s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union that includes 1.5 percent cost of living increase, three fewer furlough days a year and no layoffs. ?We?ve asked them to not get pay raises for several years in a row. That is hard to do in this kind of environment,? Storey said. ?Taking those non-raises or cuts to their salary, their lifestyles, we would have never been able to bring the city back to where it needs to be.? In the area of pension reform, the city now offers a two-tier system giving new hires reduced benefits. Under the new contract, current employees will be able to retire through the California Public Employees? Retirement System at age 55. They will receive a lifelong pension equal to two percent of their base salary times the years of service. For example, if they started working for the city at age 25 and worked until age 55 (30x2), they would receive 60 percent of their salary for life. If their highest base was $100,000, they would get $60,000 as a yearly pension. Current public service employees will be required to pay 1.5 percent of their retirement contribution. The city will pay the other 5.5 percent of the employee?s portion. New hires will have a two percent at age 60 formula and contribute the entire seven percent of their retirement contribution to PERS, according to the new contract. Bret Finning, president of the public service bargaining unit represented by the union, said the new contract works for everyone. ?No one is winning greatly, but no one is losing greatly,? Finning said. A Sacramento government pension watchdog group disagrees. Marcia Fritz, president of California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, believes the employees gave up nothing and got a small pay increase. ?Their wage increase offsets their pension contributions and their hours are increased with greater job security. This plan does not reduce labor costs. And it ties management?s hands if revenues decline or other costs like healthcare go up,? Fritz said. Mayor Storey said it?s a fair contract for both the employees and taxpayers. City officials are currently negotiation with the police and fire unions.