DOWNEY – The City Council capped benefits for its top employees Tuesday as the city attempts to adjust to the down economy.
After Tuesday’s City Council vote, top officials will no longer get to save nearly as much vacation, leave and holiday time.
About 40 0f Downey’s management employees will now only be able to save two years worth of vacation before the employees stop accruing vacation pay. Under the agreement, an employee who annually earned two weeks of vacation pay would stop accruing once the vacation time reached four weeks. The agreement also reduced the amount of sick time that could be saved by employees from 1,900 hours to 1,575 hours.
The practice of pay banking has come under fire recently after news reports that top managers in Monterey Park were cashing out hundreds of thousands of dollars in saved-up holiday, sick and vacation time.
Cities all over Southern California have been looking into paid leave time after the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that former Monterey Park City Manager Chris Jeffers cashed out $484,000 in leave, sick, vacation and holiday time when he left the city to take the same job in Glendora. And former Monterey Park Police Chief Jones Moy cashed out more than $300, 000 when he retired.
In Downey, however, the change was unrelated to the news of big payouts in other cities, officials said.
“Ours is totally different because, when our employees retire, their vacation time goes into a fund to pay for their health care,” Mayor Luis Marquez said. “They don’t get a big check when they leave.”
Along with capping vacation payouts, Downey also asked its managers to give the full 7-percent contribution to retirement accounts. In the past, many cities not only paid the city’s portion of staff retirement, but they also agreed to pay what has historically been an employee’s responsibility. With many cities running a deficit, cities and counties up and down the state have been asking employees to contribute more to retirement accounts.
Assistant City Manager Shannon DeLong said the city was asking managers to take a similar deal accepted by employee unions.
Councilman Mario Guerra voted against the new pay agreements, saying the cuts were not big enough. He also voted against every other recently negotiated pay agreement, he said.
The city ran a $1.7 million deficit last fiscal year, about 1 percent of its $143 million budget.
Still, Guerra said the city was setting itself on an unsustainable course.
“I wanted more reductions,” he said. “What we started was good, but we need to do more.”