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PD Editorial: Permanent savings in county pacts

  • PC: Flags were lowered to half mast Monday April 3, 2000 at the county center in Santa Rosa, in the wake of Tom Schopflin's death.

    4/4/00: Flags were lowered to half staff Monday at the Sonoma County administration center in Santa Rosa in the wake of Tom Schopflin's death.

Sonoma County's new labor contracts contain sustainable cost-saving measures consistent with promises of more balance between spending on public services and overhead costs.

The agreements, ratified Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors, include a projected $19.7 million in payroll savings through 2015.

In addition, the county expects to save $115 million in pension expenses over 10 years — more than three-quarters of the goal of $150 million set by the Board of Supervisors.

If those figures are realized, credit goes to the supervisors for pushing hard for permanent savings and also to county employees for making the necessary concessions.

Until now, the county has relied largely on layoffs and furloughs to address budget deficits. The results have been short-term savings, and the side effects have included longer waits for public service, especially with county offices closed for 10 days at Christmas time.

To achieve some permanent savings, the new contracts include several overdue reforms to pay and pension policies. Among them are:

; Reduced retirement payments for anyone hired after Jan. 1, 2013.

; Ending the practice of cashing out unused vacation, sick leave and comp time at retirement. This has added an average of 12 percent to pensions for county workers.

; Eliminating employer-paid employee retirement fund contributions.

; Employees won't accrue comp time when a holiday falls on their regular day off.

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