November 24, 2010
CONTACT: Lani Lutar
619-234-6423 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or email@example.com
Thanksgiving Turkey Served Early to Taxpayers by City Hall
Elimination of terminal leave benefit put on hold
(San Diego) – Despite promises to aggressively pursue structural budget reforms, the City of San Diego’s terminal leave benefit program has not been eliminated as taxpayers were led to believe before the General Election. The second reading and final vote on the ordinance was pulled off the City Council docket without a satisfactory explanation at its meeting on November 9, 2010.
The elimination of the terminal leave program was one of the ten so-called reform “conditions” included in Proposition D, the half-cent sales tax increase which was defeated by voters November 2. Mayor Jerry Sanders and the San Diego City Council have promised to pursue these reforms despite the defeat of Prop D.
Lani Lutar, President & CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, says she’s dismayed and disappointed to learn about the failure of the City to enact this simple reform. “This was one of the few reforms promised by Prop D to be successfully enacted so far, or so we thought,” said Lutar. “It’s highly suspect that the second reading was cancelled at the last minute when a hearing date for a final vote had been set. This is normally a routine matter.
“We understood that the public employee unions had tentatively agreed to this reform. So why was a reform item which was touted by Prop D proponents as a signal of the Council’s commitment to reform before the election mysteriously pulled off the agenda just one week after the election? The Association would like an explanation on behalf of the city’s taxpayers,” added Lutar.
“Meanwhile, Council President Ben Hueso seems to be loading up the Council docket in the last days before two new council members take their seats. These are the practices voters find so distasteful, and a significant reason why Prop D was defeated. The failure to pass a relatively simple reform is a prime example of why voters have a hard time believing anything elected officials promise them. Until they actually see real results, promises are assumed to be empty,” said Lutar.
The terminal leave benefit program keeps workers leaving city employment on the payroll by paying out accrued vacation until the time runs out. During this period, workers continue to receive health insurance, accrue additional vacation time and receive paid holidays. The time is applied to the worker’s length of service, which increases their pension payout. The time can run into several months for workers with large amounts of unused vacation hours.
In October, the City Council voted unanimously to halt the practice. Workers would receive a single lump sum cash payout of vacation time and collect no more benefits once they leave. The change is expected to save taxpayers up to $1 million annually depending on the number of workers who retire each year due to the elimination of healthcare and pension costs.
At this time, it is unclear when the item will be returned to the City Council, but it must be voted upon before the effective implementation date of July 1, 2011. The terminal leave benefit has already been eliminated for police officers, unclassified and management employees and members of the labor union representing some 1,900 construction, water, wastewater, maintenance, trash collection and landfill workers at the City.
The San Diego County Taxpayers Association is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, dedicated to promoting accountable, cost-effective and efficient government and opposing unnecessary taxes and fees. Founded in 1945, SDCTA has spent the past 65 years saving the region’s taxpayers millions of dollars, as well as generating information to help educate the public.