Pension costs bust Fremont budget

Fremont leaders gave a big budget presentation this evening.

City expenditures are forecast to jump by about $5 million next fiscal year. The biggest culprit ($3.5 million) is rising pension costs.

The state pension system has told the city that pension contributions for police and firefighters next year will jump from 30 percent to 36.5 percent to make up for prior investment losses and incorrect assumptions.

That means next year for every police officer and firefighter making $100,000, the city will have to pay an additional $36,500 to fully fund their pensions. For non sworn employees, who don’t have as generous pension benefits, it will jump from 18.4 percent to 22.9 percent.

The city expects to pay $15.7 million to fund its pension obligation this fiscal year. Next year it’ll be $19.2 million. In 2000, when the market was great,the city paid just about zilch. The more Fremont pays for pensions the less it has for restoring jobs and services.

In better news, sales tax revenue was up a bit, property revenue only went down a drop, and the city spent less money than expected, mostly by keeping positions vacant and being frugal.

But city leaders said that to stay on reasonably solid financial footing, Fremont will have to either reduce more positions, raise taxes or get more employee givebacks.

More on that below


No progress on Fremont public safety union give-backs

Fremont’s budget is predicated on employee union concessions this year. Non-sworn unions have agreed to take six furlough days that will keep City Hall closed for the last two weeks of December.

But furloughs don’t work so well for police and firefighters. The city is asking them to make similar wage concessions by take scheduled vacation unpaid. So far the unions have declined.

If no agreement is reached, more cuts could be needed to balance the budget.

I talked to Police Union president Greg Pipp this evening. He said the police union is willing to negotiate, but that the city has refused to consider their proposals.

“We’re willing to sit down and talk about it,” Pipp said. “But it can’t just be a take it or leave it.”

Pipp said officers are concerned that they’re going to agree to a give-back this year and then when their contract expires next year, the city will ask for another give-back.

“If we were going to take the furlough, there would be some type of extension of the contract so come next July we no were not taking another cut,” he said.

I also asked Pipp about cop pension rates. He said that it was the city that came to the union looking to give them the better retirement benefit (about eight years ago) in return for giving up some raises and contributing more to their pensions.

There’s not much that the city or the union can do about soaring pension rates. Even if they agree that future employees will get less generous pension benefits, that doesn’t change what current employees will get.

I asked City Manager Fred Diaz how the city can have adequate staffing when its paying so much for pensions.

Here’s what he said:

I don’t see it as different than any other increased cost that any other employer has to deal with. You obviously have to absorb the (pension) hits and find the revenue from some place.  A trimming of expenditure will have to occur …To pay for those retirement costs, we’ll have to lower our expenditures.

And here’s what Pipp said about the public safety pension rates: 

“We’ll do our part as city employees to make sure the city will be viable. We don’t have any interest in bankrupting the city.”

Councilmember Bob Wieckowski had something very different to say about the budget. I’ll share that soon, but not before I talk to him about it.


Armed robbery in Niles

UPDATE: Wade Ah You stumbled upon the scene and took some photos of one of the truck that went down into Alameda Creek. To see them, click here.

Here’s one:

A strong-arm robbery occurred at Chris’ Jewelers on Niles Bl. The suspects were chased in a vehicle by a witness onto the dead end of Third St. The witness drove his vehicle into Alameda Creek and lost sight of the suspects. A perimeter was set and a K-9 search was conducted with negative results. Two “witnesses” that were at the store are possibly involved with an ATM robbery that occurred at the Bank of the West on Mowry on 11/12.


Rabid bat found at Ohlone College

From Ohlone’s Chief of Police:

On Sunday, a visitor to the campus found a bat that was on the ground, flopping around, staggering as it walked, and appeared ill. The visitor appeared to be familiar with rabid bats as he isolated and placed the bat in a box. He did not notify Campus Police but did attempt to contact the Fremont Animal Control but no officers were on duty. The visitor arranged to have the bat picked up by a Bay Area agency and the bat tested positive for rabies.

The Alameda County Health Department has responded to the area and is in the process of notifying the neighborhood residences as well as the college district.

As a reminder, please alert all staff, faculty, and students NOT to handle any bats or other small animals that display any of the following characteristics:

Roaming, staggering, or otherwise acting in a strange or unusual manner in the daytime. Continue Reading


Plastic Bag Ban

UPDATE: LA passed the plastic bag ban. Read about it here.

Fremont’s City Council will discuss banning plastic shopping bags later this month. Tomorrow, LA County is poised to ban the bags in unincorporated areas, which would affect about a million residents.

Meanwhile the plastic bag industry is arguing that any shopping bag bill that involves charging customers a fee for bags will now require a 2/3rds vote because of the recently approved Prop. 26. Read about it here.


The English Argus

argusenglandReporters at The Argus in England are preparing to go on strike. Their complaints are pretty interesting. Read all about it here.

Here’s a snippet:

In a few weeks time Brighton & Hove will no longer have a daily paper. In reality the paper we already have has declined so much that most people will not notice that they will be buying a Southampton paper with a couple of Brighton and Hove inserts.

Next Thursday and Friday November 18/19th journalists on the local Argus go on strike. Argus owners, Newsquest, who in turn are owned by the massive US Gannett Foundation, have decided to relocate to Southampton. 7 journalists will be sacked in Brighton and just 2 will remain in a poky little office faxing over undigested press releases.

The new Argus will have a couple of pages at most devoted to Brighton & Hove. There will be a central paper with various local inserts, all produced in Southampton and all making a small fortune for the appropriately named Gannetts. Our local paper, warts and all, will have disappeared.


Fremont/Newark News of the Day

fremontFrom the cops:
Three gunmen burst into the Chuck E. Cheese in Newark just before 10 p.m. Friday and herded patrons, including many kiddies into a storage room. Cops arrived after the gunmen had left with the loot. The nearby Chevy’s was on lock-down for a bit.

Newark police arrested two teenage girls who tried to shoplift stuff from the Burlington Coat Factory.

Newark police responded to two instances of irate parents at children’s soccer games. In both cases, the parents were drunk.

A woman was making a transaction at the Bank of the West ATM machine on Mowry Avenue in Fremont, when a 20-something-year-old man pushed her to the ground, pointed a gun at her and demanded money. She told him she didn’t have any, and he fled in a Lexus registered out of Oakland. Police suspect the same perp was later involved in a Newark robbery.

A 14-year-old boy suffered two broken legs trying to jaywalk across Mission Boulevard at Paseo Padre Parkway. The light for oncoming traffic was green and the kid wasn’t in a crosswalk when he got hit.

Two men enter entered California Bank and proceeded to jump the counter, issue a death threat and demand money. The got what they came for without ever showing a gun and left in a Chrysler 300 before police arrived.

The Little Grocer on Grimmer Boulevard was visited Saturday by three men wearing masks and carrying handguns. The men relieved the clerk of cash and some booze before fleeing in what police say may have been a gold Ford Tempo.

 From the wire:

Fremont men plead not guilty to cabbie abduction.
Niles travel guide in Mercury News
From today’s paper here’s my story on the upcoming council appointment.
Lastly, what would a farewell to John Weed story be without a prominent mention of “over-sized blue genitals.”

For more about Weed, I found this story that ran about him from 1995 in the Mercury News.

One elected office isn’t enough for Fremont resident John Weed. Next month the Ohlone College board member will also become a director for the Alameda County Water District.

One profession isn’t enough for his private life, either.
Weed is a civil engineer, an attorney, a developer, a real estate broker and a colonel in the Air Force reserve. He is also opening a dinner theater in Niles.
Then there is his avocation: bird-dogging Fremont city government, local politicians and local newspapers. Weed frequently peppers city staff members with detailed questions on a range of subjects, including sidewalks in Mission San Jose, the Interstate 880 overpasses and seismic safety of public buildings. Continue Reading