09:15 PM PDT on Friday, June 10, 2011

The San Bernardino Public Employees Association takes issue with the editorial “Pare costly perks” (Our Views, June 2).

The partnership referred to in the editorial stated the obvious — recovery requires the participation of both management and the employees.

It is not a reasonable or realistic to expect employees to take the hit to make up for lavish discretionary spending or out-of-control hiring practices if the county is unwilling or unable to curtail them.

Recognizing that a realistic approach to the budget shortfalls was necessary, association members were the first to step up. And they did so by giving salary and other concessions.

Association members have already given up 6 percent in pay increases, reduced merit increases, suspended tuition reimbursements, suspended county matching contributions toward their 457 plan (similar to a 401k plan), and, for the first five years of employment, they now pay the employee portion of their pensions instead of letting the employer pay it.

These and other concessions have saved the county more than $85 million the last two years alone.

Years ago, when the county offered to pay the employees’ portion of pension costs instead of salary increases, San Bernardino Public Employees Association members agreed, because the county would save millions of dollars as a result. It is disingenuous for the county to now imply that it was some benefit it ceded to make employees happy.

These are tough times, and the association’s members’ concessions will continue saving the county more than $35 million in each of the next three fiscal years. The real solution to the budget deficit is for the county to stop spending and stop hiring.

County employees are ready, willing and able to pick up the duties of any essential vacancies that occur. If the county had not hired for the last two years, there would be no budget deficit, no need to reduce services and no issue with funding for jail expansion.

The county’s ongoing annual cost for more than 1,000 new employees hired since the beginning of the current recession exceeds $46 million.

The union has been very flexible and outspoken on the need to transfer employees from underfunded positions to fill these vacancies and the need to stop hiring.

The county agreed to eliminate the use of certain temporary employees in 2010, yet it spent an additional $4.6 million and an entire year before it actually took action on the agreement after repeated complaints.

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