San Jose Councilman Reconsiders "Pension Reform" | NBC Bay Area

San Jose Councilman Reconsiders "Pension Reform"

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    San Jose Councilman Donald Rocha once supported Measure B – Mayor Chuck Reed’s initiative on pension reform. Damian Trujillo reports. (Published Wednesday, April 2, 2014)

    San Jose Councilman Donald Rocha once supported Measure B – Mayor Chuck Reed’s initiative on pension reform. 

    Now he says he wants the council to take a second look at the controversial measure, which is also being battled in court, that San Jose voters approved in 2012.  The measure had employees contribute 16 percent more of their pay to retirement costs, known as a "pension reform measure."

    Rocha says in the wake of Measure B, San Jose is having a hard time retaining and recruiting employees.  His biggest area of concern is within the police department.  He says because of the changes, many officers are retiring or simply going on to jurisdictions with stronger benefits packages.

    The next San Jose police academy is next month and only 29 new recruits will be going through it – about half of what the department is used to.

    "It's a tragedy that San Jose hasn't been able to recruit the personnel that it needs," said J.J. Vallejo, one of the veteran officers who left the San Jose Police Department.

    Vallejo left undercover work and the department's elite homicide unit for a midnight patrol shift in Redwood City.

    "People want to feel secure in their line of work," he said. "That they're going to be taken care of. And that's the bottom line.

    Rocha said the city needs urgent action to stabilize staffing at the police department.

    "I think we have a track record that shows the status quo isn't working," he said.

    The areas Rocha is looking at include retirement age, accrual rates and the disability retirement issue on the police side. One option being explored is to put this up for a vote on the November ballot.

    Mayor Reed argues the changes won't work.

    "I think it's a mistake to go back. Next year we will be in excess of $30 million," he said. "If we rewind that, then we have to come up with $30 million in cuts from somewhere else."

    The council is scheduled to discuss the potential modification to the disability rules at their April 8 meeting.  Rocha is pushing for a comprehensive review.