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Pensions pinch city purse

Burbank faces high increase in retirement contributions while facing simultaneous budget gap.

March 01, 2011|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com

If all Burbank employee groups were forced to cover their full contribution, it could save the city $8.1 million, .although that would have to be negotiated with each union.

Neighboring Glendale already requires employees to contribute between 8.5% and 11% of every paycheck to the state system.

Other cost-cutting tools could include a mix. Employees could be asked to pay 1% — a savings of nearly $1 million — salaries could get cut, or other one-time dollars could be tapped to pay down the city’s unfunded liability.

One-time funds were already used during the last budget session to fund one animal control officer, a kennel attendant, park patrol, two police cadet positions and a probation officer.

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“We only have so many Band-Aids we can use before we have to make serious long-term solutions for the budget,” Flad said. “And that’s how we’ve tried to address the budget — short-term fixes to maintain services levels and keep employees while working for the future.”

Financial Services Director Cindy. Giraldo has suggested a two-tiered system, in which new employees get less benefits and agree to older retirement ages, but the impact of those savings wouldn’t be felt right away.

Any pension changes would have to be negotiated with the respective employee associations and most are aware of the growing concerns over rising costs.

Burbank Police Officers Assn. president Mark Armendariz agreed that everyone is aware that the city and state are having trouble controlling pension costs.

But he warned that any change to Burbank’s “industry standard” retirement benefits system “might affect our ability to attract the most qualified candidates to the department.”

Although reevaluating the benefits package is not currently on the negotiating table, Armendariz said the union will make an effort to find a workable agreement with the city if it reaches that point.

Burbank Firefighters Local 778 could not be reached and an official for the Burbank City Employees Assn. declined to comment on the issue.

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