Malsin Considers Alternate Solutions in Benefit Crunch

In my first article on Culver City labor issues I wrote about why changes in the City’s retirement plan which take effect on January 1st, 2012 are likely to force a large percentage of our most experienced and most valuable employees to retire. I described how by “grandfathering in” older employees we can avoid losing them and avert the serious degradation of City services it will cause. The cost to do so is low and the payback is substantial and meaningful.

Before Culver City became the thriving destination it is today there was one attribute which set us apart from other communities: our excellent safety services. While many small city Police and Fire Departments serve as “stepping stones” for safety professionals, Culver City’s safety services have always been first rate. Why? Because we have hired and retained the best.

The recipe is simple but not easy to duplicate. Experienced professionals mentor new employees. Expectations are high. Officers and Firefighters cross-train to be effective members of a tightly integrated team. They become a part of the success of our community.

It’s easy to understand how important this is to the operation of our Police and Fire Departments. The loss of much of our senior staff will be a devastating blow to them – and to us.
The same principle holds true throughout our City organization.

Culver City depends on a relatively small workforce to provide a wide variety of services. The loss of experienced parks and public works staff, building inspectors, finance staff and others will mean a loss of a great deal of the “institutional memory,” the experience, and the personal commitment to our community that makes the high level of service we enjoy possible.

For every ambulance that arrives at your door, a large number of workers are part of the team that makes it happen. From the mechanic who maintains the ambulance to the dispatcher who takes the call, many people are involved in providing each and every service we depend on and each amenity we enjoy. A sudden loss of team members can only create disorder and disruption in these services.

The impact of these changes on the morale of our remaining workforce will be devastating. Culver City’s employees show an incredible amount of dedication to our community. As we trim our workforce year after year they keep doing more for less. They care a great deal for our community, and it shows. We should not jeopardize that level of commitment.

A City whose residents care about service should do its best to retain its most valuable, experienced employees. We should not be rushing them out the door by making them choose between continued service to our community and the best interests of their families.

A City whose thriving business community depends on a knowledgeable and motivated team at City Hall should treat that team like a valuable asset. Their skills have helped our City prosper. Private sector studies have measured the financial value of “engaged” employees, and it is substantial. We should not undermine what so many employers struggle to create, especially in uncertain economic times.

My evaluation of the changes the City is implementing leads me to believe that costs have been understated and implications have been underestimated. Frankly, it just doesn’t add up: If we’re paying for the benefits of employees who retire before January 1st in order to retain their current retiree plan and we’re paying the same amount again for the benefits of new, less-experienced employees, we’re not saving money – we’re spending more.

By “grandfathering in” the current retiree medical benefits of older workers we can achieve the vast majority of the savings we’re seeking while preserving what’s best about our community. Doing so will support our property values, strengthen our local economy, and ensure that Culver City remains a great place to live.

Many people who read my first article have contacted me about this important issue. I’m interested in hearing what you think about it. Let me know by emailing me at [email protected].

– Scott Malsin

The Actors' Gang

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