Placer County employees explore early retirement in light of benefit, pension reductions
TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212; Budget cuts to county governments in the State of California have some local employees exploring early retirement as a means of preventing pension benefit reductions, a possibility that Placer County officials say will affect only new hires.
Lt. Alan Carter of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and#8212; whose last day on the job was Friday, Sept. 10 and#8212; said in a healthy economy he may have stayed three more years, but rising costs for health care and pension benefits for county employees forced him to reconsider.
and#8220;There is a trend (of reducing benefits for government employees),and#8221; said Carter, who has been with the office for 22 years. and#8220;It’s worth my peace of mind to avoid those possible losses. It’s the best move for me and my family.and#8221;
PCSO Capt. Jeff Granum said the current economic climate was a slight factor in his retirement decision, but enumerated three more important decision-making factors.
and#8220;Potential cuts were not a primary concern,and#8221; said Granum, whose last day was also Friday, Sept. 10. and#8220;… I am very pleased with my accomplishments and I think I’ve mentored the right people to keep the department on the right track. Secondly, I’ve been in public safety for 36 years and it’s time to go. Finally, anytime someone retires it provides the opportunity for others to move up.and#8221;
Granum said as commander of the Tahoe City substation, initiatives enacted under his direction have been instrumental in building bridges with community members while being responsive to community needs.
He said he has no fear that the work started during his tenure will be discontinued.
and#8220;I don’t think that work will be undone,and#8221; he said. and#8220;I’m not going anywhere. I will still be involved in the community. People can see me every day running up and down the West Shore.and#8221;
Both Granum and Carter emphasized their comments were not meant as criticisms of the county or their policies, as they were aware of the economic realities facing government entities.
Placer County Executive Officer Tom Miller responded to the officer’s concerns by asserting and#8220;there is no reductions in retirement benefits, per se.and#8221;
Miller did acknowledge an alteration in county employee pension and health care costs and#8212; including a requirement that employees cover 20 percent of their health care costs and#8212; along with moving back the retirement-eligible age from 50 to 55.
However, the newly enacted policies only affect new and future hires, said Miller, and would not have impacted Carter or Granum.
Furthermore, Miller said relative to other counties in Northern California, Placer County has undertaken few layoffs.
and#8220;In the past two and a half years, we have only laid off 15 employees and#8212; all from our land development department,and#8221; he said. and#8220;We haven’t even thought about cutting public safety.and#8221;
Despite relatively few layoffs, the county has had to get creative locally in the allocation of public safety resources.
In July, the Tahoe City dispatch office was closed and most of the services were relocated to Auburn.
Granum said the main reason for the closure was due to a lack of staffing for the Tahoe City facility after the North Tahoe Fire Protection District and Squaw Valley Fire Department decided to use Calfire for dispatch, according to a previous Sierra Sun report.
Furthermore, in the past couple years, PCSO also has closed three service centers and#8212; at Kings Beach, Carnelian Bay and Granite Bay and#8212; in response to the recession.
Despite economic hardships, Miller believes the county is presenting its employees with quality benefit packages.
and#8220;The message is this: the county is asking employees to bear a little more of the cost, but we still provide excellent benefits,and#8221; Miller said. and#8220;Times are tough and we are doing our best.and#8221;
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