Open Letter to Kathy Ward
Posted by Mike O on August 25, 2010
Many thanks for coming by to our group to explain the County benefits issues to us. Sadly, I must disagree with your decision on it.
First, let’s review the situation in the private sector, which is where the support for the public sector must come (something never to forget). Unemployment is up over 7% in Collin County; those of us lucky enough to keep our jobs are taking major pay cuts (5% is typical, which is what we took), and/or expected to work longer hours (my wife is up to about 55 hours a day and the outfit I just left to physically survive was staffing projects at 20% of what was needed). We are getting hammered every year on benefit costs, paying more and more, with Obamacare making this year absurd for my new mid-sized employer; the total benefit package is costing the company nearly 40% this year! One member of our company has already figured he’ll be out nearly $4,000 more this year for his already high family medical expenses. This is the real world, where expenses and and income must meet. The taxpayers simply have significantly less income to work with.
In terms to the County situation: It really comes down to multiple issues of costs, one of the few of which the County has control over is the matching amount. Only the best companies around still match at 100% for 6%, maybe 50% for another 3%; most have a 5 year requirement (better than the county’s 8 year). Matching of a total of 17.5% with a 7% return requirement???
I agree the 7% and lack of tiers are bigger issues; but those are not the issue before the Court and there is no guarantee those will be appropriately addressed in Austin (You would have thought Voter ID would have passed last year). What can be addressed is the extreme matching discrepancy from the reality of the world. Your argument about competing for police officers has some merit, but can be addressed separately with police pay adjustments if needed; those officers represent only a small fraction of the employees involved. As for other entities, they are also under stress and I will lay odds a number of them are looking for someone to set the example of fiscal restraint. This may serve as a catalyst for others to take the path to log-term sustainability.
Our group supported you under the banner of fiscal responsibility; I hope you’ll rethink your position to back this first step to reduce it to 150% which- once (or if) the economy improves- can be revisited as needed. But, for now, the precedence to view the private sector is the payer and as the model to emulate is critical to make. This may not set well with the 1,900 county employees, but now awareness of the cushy matching arrangement in the taxpaying public- especially the newest actists in that population- possibly the hundreds of thousands of strained taxpayers must be considered first.
We will be there watching; we entered this political fray for the long haul and we are NOT going away. And neither is our demand for greater realworld accountability, as the Plano City Council is apparently aware.