Feb. 6, 2012 | Tucked within the agenda packet for tonight's City Council meeting in San Leandro may be the seeds of the city's stratregy in potentially bitter negotitations with its public safety and city employee unions starting this spring.
The council will discussed a staff recommendation eliminating deferred compensation from the city's adminstrative code. Aside from a few city personnel, the practice is no longer widespread, but may provide a glimpse into Mayor Stephen Cassidy and new City Manager Chris Zapata's plan to extract more concessions from the groups, some of which has not received a pay increase since 2006.
From the city's perspective, its to their benefit to paint the local economy in its most dire terms, said a local labor official. "Why do you defer compensation, if you're management?" said the official. "To make the current budgetary situation look more rosy than it really is."
Another clue to the city's potential stance in negotiations may also lie in the new $235,000/year contract given last month to Zapata. In the contract, Zapata will pay 10 percent of his salary towards his own pension. The large figure is seen by many as a warning that he will attempt to ask employees to fund their own pensions to a similar degree.
During the 2010 mayoral election, Cassidy placed the economy front and center with great rewards, but since his election San Leandro's budget woes have stabilized after the worst economy in several generations. The yearly attention to excruciating cuts to city services and staff was not unusual. Just about every city in the nation has been forced to more austere government policies, but large cuts made early in this recession has succeeded in bringing a modicum of stability to a still stagnant local economy.
Despite the prospects that the worst is behind us, Cassidy and the city's approach to labor negotiations with police and its two city employee unions will likely paint the economy in far worse condition than its budget analysts might portray.
Former San Leandro mayor Tony Santos, who presided over the bulk of the turbulent recession says another round of cuts are unneccesary and instead proscribes growth.
"I think if anything they should reward the employees for what they've done," said Santos. In addition to working without a pay increase for the past five years, city employees have also made concessions in health care while raising the retirement age for pensions.
"Nobody on the council should be badmouting the economy," Santos said. "They shouldn't be talking about cutting further back. The damage is has already been done."
Much of the resources used by the city to weather the worse of the recession came about earlier this decade when the council stored away $20 million in reserves for such an economical downturn. The inclusion recently of a voter-approved sales tax increase in 2010 has also made the city's budget more manageable over years past.
"There's no reason to make more cuts, in my opinion," said Santos. "Otherwise, why did we got through all that trouble a few years ago?"
Cassidy successfully painted the reserve transfers as deficit spending during the campaign when instead, they were funds expressly allocate to help in troubled times.
Labor negotiations with the Police Officers Association and the city employees will likely run the course of the year before hopefully agreeing to a new contract in the fall.