Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 12:52 pm | Fair 63º

 
 
 
 

Letter to the Editor: Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association Response to Blum Questions

The Honorable Marty Blum, Mayor
City of Santa Barbara

Re: Response to Your Question at City Council Meeting — Number of Days City Employees Report to Work; Question for You

Dear Marty:

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss the derivation of data presented to you at the City Council meeting Tuesday. The question of appropriate remuneration of civic employees is important to the public and benefits from clear presentation.

The question you asked was how the figure of a maximum of 83 days per year —16 and a half weeks — that city employees may now not have to report at the city Monday through Friday and yet be considered full-time was derived. Please note that if the furlough program adopted Tuesday is more generally implemented (which is likely), this figure would increase to more than 19 weeks per year for some employees.

Holidays and Personal, Bereavement and Sick Leave

These data are derived from the Memorandum of Understanding between the city and Service Employees’ International Union, Local 620.

According to the MOU, the number of days that city employees are not required to report to work each year now include, for all employees:

10 Holidays (with new Cesar Chavez Day holiday)
  4 Personal leave
  5 Bereavement leave
12 Sick leave

This is a total of 31 paid days each year city employees do not have to report to work as a result of holidays and personal, bereavement and sick leave. It should be noted that many employees in the private sector receive merely six paid holidays a year, and if a holiday falls on a weekend they do not receive it. On the other hand, in the city, not only will employees now have 10 holidays a year, but if a holiday falls on a weekend it is taken on the preceding Friday or following Monday.

With respect to the city’s four paid personal leave days each year, this is not general practice in the private sector.

Concerning bereavement leave, it is a broad net to whom this applies, per the MOU: “mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, child, grandparents by blood or marriage, grandchildren by blood or marriage, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, person standing in loco parentis ..., and step family members.” This is typical of wording in the MOU.

Concerning sick leave, the city not only provides 12 days each year, but, if not used, this time (up to one year) may be applied to retirement benefits. By way of contrast, many private employees receive merely six days of sick leave each year, which may not be accumulated and do not generate retirement benefits.

Vacation

Pursuant to the MOU, city employees receive 23 days of vacation with 11 years of service to the city and 28 days of vacation with 24 years.

This means that for an employee 11 years with the city, he will receive a maximum of 31 paid days each year for holidays and personal, bereavement and sick leave, plus 23 days of vaction, a total of 54 paid days each year. For an employee with 24 years with the city, he or she receives five more vacation days, so this is a total of up to 59 paid days each year per the new MOUs.

As with holidays and personal, bereavement and sick leave, city vacation days are generous compared to the private sector. Another feature of city vacation benefits is that employees are able to receive cash in lieu of up to 12.5 vacation days per year.

Every Other Friday Off

I recognize the argument that a longer work day on the other nine days means that employees work the same number of hours in nine days they would otherwise in 10, but I believe this understates the exceptional, and apparently unreplicated, benefit it is to city employees to have two Fridays off each month.

This is a total of 24 Fridays off per year. I have been careful in my communications to account for the circumstance with respect to number of hours worked in nine days versus 10 by saying that city employees may not have to report to work on as many as 83 days per year (59 + 24 = 83). This would be the case for a city employee with 24 years service. City employees with 11 years service would currently have a maximum of 78 days per year (54 + 24 = 78) they would not have to be at work Monday through Friday and be considered full-time.

Furloughs

Pursuant to the MOUs the council voted for Tuesday, some employees will begin to receive furloughs of up to 104 hours per year, or 13 days. It is likely that, as in Santa Barbara County, the city will expand furloughs to more employees.

To return to the example of employees with 11 years and 24 years service with the city, if, in the future, they were furloughed, they would be in the position of not having to report to work for as many as 91 and 96 days per year, respectively, Monday through Friday, more than 18 to 19 weeks per year, and yet be full-time.

Since employees in the city are typically receiving a 4 percent raise over the next two years and the furlough would be equivalent to 5 percent of salary, this means furloughed employees in another year would receive 1 percent less take home pay than they do now. If an employee received a step or class increase (as many do), he would actually receive more take home pay than now is the case.

Even if the 24 days of every other Friday off were deducted from the 91 and 96 days totals, these employees would not have to report to work for as many as 67 and 72 days per year, or 13.4 and 14.4 weeks. An employee with 24 years would have a 3.6-day work week, and an employee with 11 years would have a 3.7-day work week.

If the additional 24 days of every other Friday off are included, then the work week (in terms of days employees have to report to work) declines to 3.2 days for the employees with 24 years and 3.3 days for employees with 11 years service, and be considered full-time.

Whether one uses the 3.6 and 3.7 figures or the 3.2 and 3.3 figures, these will likely become the work week for many city employees in the coming year.

Conclusion/Question

Sometimes council members talk as if balanced, even-handed settlements have been reached between the city and employee organizations, similar to those in the private sector.

Such a view would be very inaccurate.

Marty, the following is a direct question to you, similar to the question you asked me: Are you aware of private employers in the Santa Barbara area that provide comparable holidays, personal leave, bereavement leave, sick leave and vacation benefits to the agreements between the city of Santa Barbara and its employee organizations, and which practice a policy of closed offices every other Friday? If so, who are they?

The above analysis does not incorporate retirement benefits whereby many city employees can retire in their early to mid-50s with liftetime pensions of as much as $50,000 to $100,000 per year, health benefits and other benefits.

Thank you for your consideration. The Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association board meetings are open to the public, and we welcome your participation, and that of any member of the City Council or city staff, anytime.

Sincerely,

Lanny Ebenstein, President
Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association

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