San Leandro City Council Members will begin paying into their pension funds immediately, after the Council passed a resolution on a 5-2 vote Tuesday night.
The measure is largely symbolic, at least initially, but represents a minor coup for Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who made a pillar of his campaign.
Up until now, the city has paid part or all of employee contributions to the (CalPERS) for city workers. The employee contribution is 7 to 8 percent of salary. The city pays this in addition to its CalPERS contribution as the employer.
This fiscal year, which started July 1, the city will contribute 17.6 percent of payroll toward the pensions of its non-safety employees. The city will contribute 46.7 percent of payroll to CalPERS for its safety employees (police and fire) — currently the of any city in Alameda County, according to the city's Finance Department.
Salary and benefits allocated for police employees this year total $21.4 million, according to the recently approved .
In contrast, salaries and benefits to the six part-time City Council members, the mayor, and one staff person total $320,205. (Addition: salary and benefits budgeted solely for City Council and the mayor total $223,895, according to Mayor Cassidy.)
By paying into their own pensions, council members will save the city a mere $7,120 this year.
Still, Cassidy pushed the gesture as a way to show city employees that their leaders are willing to sacrifice to help the city regain solid financial footing — and, he hopes, to convince them to do the same when contracts are up for renegotiation.
“If we’re unwilling to make sacrifices ourselves, our credibility is going to be impaired upfront,” Cassidy said at Tuesday night's meeting. “I think this is a valid first step.”
Council members Joyce Starosciak and Diana Souza disagreed, saying a salary cut for council members would be more equitable. Currently, two council members, Ursula Reed and Jim Prola, don't participate in the city's CalPERS retirement program, and therefore don't stand to lose anything from the new policy.
"The first step, for me, would be to take a pay cut," Souza said at the meeting, "because we’ve already asked [employees] to do that.” Nevertheless, the measure passed without votes from Souza and Starosciak.
Last year, San Leandro contributed $7.3 million to CalPERS for employee pensions, or 10 percent of the city’s General Fund expenditures.