Special Meeting Set to Explore Pensions

Just three days after approving a budget that leaves San Jose with a smaller workforce earning less pay, libraries open four day a week, community centers looking for operators and 100 fewer police officers on the streets, the San Jose City Council will be back at work on Friday, June 24, trying to stave off layoffs and service cuts for thebudget.

A special meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara Street, to explore options for reforming the city’s pension system to try to control escalating costs that forced severe cuts in thebudget, which goes into effect on July 1.

“We urgently need to take action to on fiscal reforms to help reduce our costs prior towhen we will face another major budget shortfall,” Mayor Chuck Reed said in a memo. “Action must be taken quickly to ensure that we reach a resolution before the budget process begins forso we can avoid additional service cuts and layoffs.”

Set to vote on declaring a fiscal emergency, the council on Friday will instead discuss pension reform options and language that could be on a ballot measure in March. In the meantime, the city has been meeting with five of 11 employee unions that have agreed on a framework for discussing retirement benefits.

If approved in the March election, the ballot measure would set limits for retirement benefits and require a public vote to increase them. The council will weigh in on declaring a fiscal emergency and ballot measure on August 2, it first meeting after the July break.

The council’s vote on Tuesday, June 21, put in motion an operating plan funded by a $819 million general fund, down from $954 million that will cut neighborhood services because of a 10 percent smaller workforce – 500 of about 5,500 jobs will be cut – and a smaller budget to maintain parks, wipe out graffiti, provide youth programs and pay police and firefighters. A 10 percent cut in employees’ pay and benefits saved $39 million, and the rest of the $115 million shortfall came out of cuts to services.

Cuts that will have a significant impact on neighborhoods include:

• Library hours will change on Monday, June 27, to accommodate a four-day schedule. Nine branch libraries will be open on Mondays through Thursdays, and nine on Wednesdays through Saturdays. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. San Jose’s main downtown library, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, will remain open seven days a week.

• Four new branch libraries – Santa Teresa, Educational Park, Calabazas and Bascom – will remain closed until fall. Seven Trees and Bascom were scheduled to open in fall, and Educational Park and Calabazas were scheduled to open in fall.

• All but 10 large community centers — Almaden, Berryessa, Camden, Cypress, Evergreen, Mayfair, Seven Trees, Southside and Willow Glen — will by staffed with city workers but cut hours of operation from 63 to 59. The city’s other 44 community, neighborhood, youth or senior centers will – or have been – contracted out to private operators to keep the doors open but offer a more limited array of programs and activities. The reuse program was approved by the city council as a way to avoid closing centers because there aren’t enough staff members to operate them.

Ed Solis, who is managing the reuse program, said potential operators have been found for 42 centers, and agreements and move-in dates are in various stages of the process. Added to the reuse list through council action on Tuesday are the Edenvale Community Center, which has been open only nine months, and the Bascom Community Center, which was scheduled to open this fall. Solis said the process for leasing those centers would begin soon.

Many field offices staffed by Strong Neighborhoods community coordinators and activity workers have or will be closed, including Hoffman/Via Monte, McKinley Neighborhood Center, Edenvale Community Center and Capital Park Center. The Neighborhood Development Center, which provided resources to residents across San Jose, will close its office at the Kirk Community Center, 1601 Foxworthy Avenue.