Changing rules for City employees

The Ballot Simplification Committee spent its entire meeting today going over a proposition that would change the rules governing retirement and health benefits for city employees and retirees. It was a busy meeting with about 15 visitors watching the committee and making presentations during the public input portion of the meeting.

The City and County of San Francisco provides pension and retirement benefits and health benefits to employees through its Retirement System and its Health Services System. The Unified School District, Community College District and Superior Court also participate in either or both of these systems. Sheriff’s Dept. employees and a few other groups participate in the California Public Employees Retirement System instead of the City’s system.

Most City employees contribute 7.5% of compensation into the City’s Retirement System. The City averages the amount paid by California’s 10 most populated counties to set the amount that the City and other participating employers contribute to the Health Services System. Participating employers pay the balance to keep that system funded. Under some collective bargaining agreements, the City pays additional costs for employee medical, vision and dental coverage.

Proposition _ is a Charter amendment that would increase employee contributions to the pension and retirement system, decrease employer contributions and alter rules for arbitration proceedings about the City’s collective bargaining agreements.

The changes in the contribution requirements are complicated and I won’t go over them all here. It’s enough to know that the committee more than doubled the number of words it aims for. Instead of 300 words, this ballot measure will take almost 800 words in the voters’ guide.  The measure has different rules for various groups of City employees because of the variety of agreements won in collective bargaining over the years. In future negotiations, the City will pay only the 10-county average and will not be allowed to agree to pay any additional costs for employee or dependent health coverage.

If a court rules that any part of Proposition _ is invalid, the compensation for affected employees will remain the same for five years. If the City or an arbitrator awards an increase in wages or benefits for covered employees, the increase shall first be subject to voter approval. If approved, Proposition _ will take effect on January 1, 2011.

For the complete draft of the City Retirement and Health Plan proposition, go to www.sfelections.org/bsc This proposition is going to require some study before deciding the best way to vote, and citizens can expect to be bombarded by arguments for and against this important amendment.

The Ballot Simplification Committee has only one more proposition to consider for the November election, one about a proposed increase in the Real Property Transfer Tax. That will be considered tomorrow and then the committee will move on to examine the requests for reconsideration that have come in. Most of the committee’s time on Thursday and Friday will be devoted to these requests.

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