PACIFIC GROVE, Calif.- A city that says it's doing everything it can, to not go bankrupt, meets with it's public safety employees for the first time on Monday, all because retirement benefits are just too much. First, we will give you a fact check on why every city in the state is affected by the issue surrounding CalPERS.
Pacific Grove has been challenging the California Public Employee Retirement System or CalPERS, for years, saying it increased the amount the city is supposed to put toward its pensions, and they couldn't afford it. In 2010, the city passed cuts to pension payments for it's police officers prompting the union representing the officers to file a lawsuit. Then, earlier this year, the city hired an attorney to look over calculations of what PG owes and ways to lower the city's payment.
The long running debate over CalPERS got a little bit easier last week, after a Monterey Superior Court judge ruled Pacific Grove's 2010 voter approved initiative capping the city's contributions to employee pensions at 10% was unconstitutional. Waiting for the judge's decision, has been keeping negotiations with the city's police unions at a standstill.
"There is no way that any of us could find, to meet both requirements of that initiative as well as the requirements of CalPERS law for public safety employees," said city manager Tom Frutchey.
Because pensions are such a large portion of the city's budget, the idea of having to continue contributing more than it can afford, was putting the city between a rock and a hard place.
"As a result of the judges decision, we no longer are and now we have the ability to work with employees who are very committed to coming up with something that works for the community," Frutchey said.
Now following the judge's decision, now both sides are being forced to come to an agreement. The city said it's not an issue affecting public safety for now because there's a mutual agreement to keep police units on the streets. As the stock market continues to fluctuate, some taxpayers said public employees should remember the city's future is at stake.
"We should at it as we're looking at 401K's or our own investments. I think that they should look at it too, not just looking at one company, which is the state, to take care of themselves," said resident Steve Kahlenberg.
But since public safety employees sacrifice so much, others said the taxpayers should have a say in how the city disburses it's money.
"I think they should out a vote to it. I don't think its always their decision, I think they should really seriously consider what other people have to say before they just say I'm sorry this is the way it is," said resident Bethann Lynch.
The city of PG said it plans to continue negotiations and meet its police unions in person at the bargaining table next week.