Victorville Mayor Pro Tem Jim Cox called Tuesday for city officials to first iron out details of the city’s $199 million spending plan June 9 before voting to approve the budget.

By Shea Johnson
Staff Writer

Posted Jun. 4, 2015 at 2:22 PM
Updated Jun 4, 2015 at 4:49 PM

VICTORVILLE — The City Council this week extended budget talks to June 9 after Mayor Pro Tem Jim Cox suggested officials iron out details of a draft $199 million spending plan, including concerns raised by employees over changes to benefits.

A major highlight in the fiscal year 2015-16 budget, the full 8 percent of CalPERS contributions is planned to be reallocated from the city to employees. The city’s CalPERS liability was estimated to be in the ballpark of $20 million in March by Irvine-based accounting firm Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C., which was hired to audit the city’s financial statements.

But despite employee cost-of-living and salary increases totaling 6.7 percent embedded in the budget, two city workers expressed concern during Tuesday’s Council meeting that the new 8 percent responsibility more than canceled out the raises.

“That’s pretty much a wash with the PERS. It’s not a cost-of-living, it’s a cost of PERS now, so in essence we’re still behind,” said Victorville Water District employee Wade Pieper. “This is going to hurt basically everybody. I think there are other options.”

Jeff Ricker, who also works for the water district, rattled off a list of year-by-year cuts employees had been faced with starting at the downturn of the economy in 2009.

“We were down to 11 people at one point in our field department covering 100 square miles of the water district area,” said Ricker, speaking about 2009. “We still kept up the same level of service … I think there is another alternative that we can do to stop taking it from employees.”

One of three council members to block adopting the budget Tuesday until next week’s workshop, Cox agreed there were too many unanswered questions.

“I believe we need a study session to answer the questions not only that we have, but the questions that have been raised by the employees,” he said. “I think they deserve an answer.”

But even as Councilman Ryan McEachron acknowledged employee concerns, he pointed out that it was unsustainable for the city to continue burdening contributions, while urging fellow council members to pass a budget.

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