Modesto Baseline Calculations for City Employee Retirement Benefits, Measure R Advisory Vote (November 2011)
Measure R asked the city's voters for their advice on whether the city should adopt a three-year average of salary to calculate the pension level a retired city worker would receive, rather than using the highest salary earned in one year, which is what the city currently uses.
Measure R was one of three advisory votes on the November 8, 2011 ballot that invites the city's voters to consider a range of proposals for how the city might deal with city employee retirement benefits. Modesto's pensions are funded through CalPERS and cost the city about $20 million a year, not including the city's cost of health benefits for retired city workers. Modesto currently allows city workers to retire at age 50 with up to 90% of their pay.
The official voter guide arguments in favor of Measure R were signed by:
- Brad Hawn, Vice Mayor City of Modesto
- Cecil Russell, President and CEO, Modesto Chamber of Commerce
- Dave Thomas, President, Stanislaus Taxpayers Association
- Janice E. Keating, Former Modesto City Councilmember
They argued, in part:
- "Pension spiking allows public employees to set their retirement benefits by the highest single year of pay. Doing so creates an artificially high baseline for setting retirement benefits. The City of Modesto has already moved to prevent future employees from engaging in pension spiking, however, nothing prevents current public employees from doing that. This advisory measure will encourage future councils to take measures to end pension spiking. This would most likely take the form of requiring the city to determine pension benefit levels by averaging the employee’s last three years, instead of basing that number on just the single top earning year. If we do not make this change, then the City of Modesto will have to turn to increased taxes or reduce services to fund the costs of public pensions."
The official voter guide arguments opposing Measure R were signed by:
- Laurie A. Smith, President, Modesto Confidential Management Association
- Antonio Arguelles, President, Modesto Police Officer’s Association
They argued, in part:
- "Measure R is more political grandstanding by the city council! The city and Modesto’s employees have already agreed to move to the three year average calculation for pension purposes. Do they want to change now? Measure R is not needed, is poorly worded, and is nothing more than political grandstanding. Pension reform is a serious issue. Measure R is not a serious measure. Both the city of Modesto and its employee associations agree to the three year average concept for new employees. Let’s not fix something that isn’t broken."
- "No one supports pension spiking. Do not let the politicians undermine significant reform with phoney advisory elections designed to mislead and confuse. Measure R is a costly ballot measure that will change nothing, will accomplish nothing. It only serves to provide convenient cover for politicians who want to claim to have done something positive during their long years in office."
Other Modesto ballot measures
Modesto voters had a raft of ballot measures to consider in the November 8 election. They were:
- Measure N, Modesto Utility Users Tax
- Measure P, Modesto Extension of Sewer Service to the Rouse-Colorado Neighborhood (Advisory Vote)
- Measure Q, Modesto Transition Defined Benefit to Defined Contribution Retirement Plan (Advisory Vote)
- Measure S, Modesto Increase in Age of Retirement Eligibility for City Employees (Advisory Vote)
Path to the ballot
The resolution to place Measures Q, R and S on the November 8, 2011 ballot was proposed by Modesto councilman and mayoral candidate Brad Hawn. The resolution was approved in July 2011 by a 4-3 vote of the Modesto City Council.
- Official Voter Guide for the Stanislaus County November 8, 2011 local ballot measures
- List of Stanislaus County November 8, 2011 local ballot measures