Hollywood Commission Sets Pension Reform Referendum
HOLLYWOOD (CBS4) – As city employees shouted in anger, the Hollywood city commission unanimously passed three ordinances freezing pension plans for city employees and setting up new plans with potentially lower future payoffs. They also set a September referendum to take the changes to the voters unless they can work out a deal with employees first.
Angry city employees paraded to the microphone at Monday’s meeting, complaining bitterly that they were being forced to bear the brunt of Hollywood’s well-known financial crisis. The city has a $38 million budget gap, and wants to cut the amount it pays into employee pension funds to help balance the budget.
City budget officials say it’s pension reform, and believe it will save the city $8.5 million. The city has already fired 16 employees, cut pay for many city workers by 7.5 percent, and imposed 12.5 percent pay cuts for police officers and firefighters.
Now, many of those same workers are being asked to accept less from their pensions, and the anger runs deep.
“You got into this jam with negotiations,” Pete Brewer told commissioners, “and that’s the way you get out of it. You sit down and negotiate with the unions and come to agreements. You don’t force em, and you don’t try to put it on a ballot.”
“To take, literally, a third of the pension away from some people and 25 percent of the wages, in this economy,” said Russ Chard, who opposes the decision. “They don’t want to raise taxes $100 a year; what are you doing to the employees? It’s disgraceful, and I’m ashamed of every one of them.”
Interim City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark supported the unanimous vote to spend up to $400 thousand to hold the referendum, if necessary. She and commissioners are hoping it won’t be required.
“The next step? Negotiations, negotiations, negotiations,” she said following the meeting. She said city officials want to talk with all employee unions.
“If we can solve this without requiring a referendum we’ll all be happy,” Swanson-Rivenbark said.”
That will not be easy. Employees packed the commission chamber for Monday’s meeting, and reacted loudly and angrily to the unanimous votes. As they filed out following the decisions, some pointed to commissioners, as if to hold them accountable for their decision
Swanson-Rivenbark said the city and the unions will need to come to a decision by sometime in August to avoid a referendum. If a referendum is required, it would be held September 13th.