Rancho Mirage Cuts Employee Pension Benefits

Angela Monroe

Rancho Mirage Cuts Employee Pension Benefits

CREATED Dec. 15, 2011

The city of Rancho Mirage is capping their employees' salary increases and slashing pensions.
It is one of the wealthiest in the valley with over 70 million dollars in reserves.
Which is why many employees say the city doesn't need to make these cuts.
But the city council says this is pension reform and they are being responsible to the taxpayers.

Disappointment at city hall for employees.
"We know these are hard times, but it is what it is, we just hope that they do make the right decision for their employees to appreciate us a little more because we do care for our citizens, that's who we care for," said Jackie Linares with the code compliance division.
Employees of the city of Rancho Mirage have not received cost of living increases in four years. And now, they are looking at cuts.
"To put this in perspective the benefit to the city is less than one percent of their annual operating budget, the cost to the employees is significantly more than that, we all have spouses, we live in these communities, we have people that have been laid off, we've lost homes, we've been dealing with all the other things that everyone out there are dealing with," said Sean Smith the chairman with Rancho Mirage Employee's Association.
But Mayor Dana Hobart says some benefits were excessive including pay steps that increased all base salaries by 40 percent in the first eight years.
"It plays into pension reform immeasurably, it also plays into trying to determine what is a fair and reasonable salary," said Hobart.
But employees say their staffing levels are down to ten years ago and these cuts hurt.
"Take away retirement benefits, two tier off employees, reduce the ability to earn pay steps going forward in the organization and it's not necessary here, the city of Rancho Mirage has 70 million dollars in reserves," said Labor Relations Consultant, Mike Powell.
Current salaries range from 40,000 to 180,000 dollars a year.
The city says they already pay highly competitive wages..
"It's not ours to spend simply to make employees happy, or make independent contractors happy, or to make anybody particularly happy, its to do the right thing, be frugal, and be fiscally responsible," said Hobart.
Employees hope city council members could change their minds after the holidays.
"Maybe this isn't the end, because it looks like we put some things on some people's mind, and they had to make a tough decision, we respect that, be we hope we put enough in their minds, and their heart to have them reconsider," said Sandra Johnson, Rancho Mirage Employee's Association Vice-Chair.
Employees salaries were not reduced, but the changes could mean a ten percent cut in the maximum salaries they can earn.
Rancho Mirage has just over 70 employees ranging from street maintenance, engineering, to building and safety departments.