Pension Referendum – Sept. 13
September 5, 2011, 9:24 PM
Filed under: Budget, City Staff, Elections, Taxes


WHAT:  Pension Referendum
WHEN: Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011

This is no time for voter apathy.  Our city has a budget crisis that could lead to bankruptcy. As a partial solution, the referendum proposes reducing future pension benefits for members of each of the three unions in city government:  General Employees, Police, and Firefighters. These reductions would save the City some $8.5 million and set the City on a more sustainable course for the future.

Note: the referendum would not touch any pension benefits employees have earned to date; only future benefits would be subject to new rules if the referendum passes.

We are voting YES on all three referendum questions.  We believe a YES vote will save jobs, maybe hundreds of them in the long run.  It will also prevent astronomical tax and fee increases in the years to come for both residents and businesses. 

Think about it.  The City is strapped for money. The unions have cited as cause of this budget failure a number of wasteful, unwise expenditures the City Commission has made — and we agree with most of these (WiFi, water tower decor, mega developer incentives, excessive severance package for former city manager, etc.).  We’ve spoken out against WiFi and excessive developer incentives for years, not just after the fact but before these spending decisions were even made.

More unwise expenditures the unions don’t mention are the excessive pension concessions to the unions themselves.  We’ve spoken out against these, too, for years.  They’ve been a major contributor to the City’s financial meltdown. Hollywood’s pension costs have skyrocketed about $30 million in just eight years  Look at the trend line:

This situation cannot continue without huge tax and fee increases in years to come.  And who are we asking to pay these taxes and fees?  New census data show that almost half of Hollywood households are designated “low-income,” and foreclosure rates here are three times more than nationally.

If the referendum is defeated and savings can’t be achieved from reducing pension costs, the City says it will have to cut salaries and lay off workers to achieve the necessary savings for the coming fiscal year.    Salaries were already cut significantly earlier this year so this would be a double whammy.  Reducing future retirement benefits seems the better course to us but if the unions don’t agree, voter approval is required and that’s why we have the upcoming referendum. This referendum gives voters a direct voice in how the City will handle the current budget disaster:  (1) pension reform, or (2) no pension reform and more salary cuts, employee layoffs, and service cutbacks instead, not only now but in future years also.

Infuriating and disheartening as reducing retirement benefits can be, we still think the unions would be wise to reach a negotiated settlement with the City rather than pinning their hopes on defeating the referendum.  The unions may well succeed at sinking the referendum. Then what? Wouldn’t the subsequent shift to salary cuts and pink slips be worse for the rank and file than a less costly retirement plan?

We believe defeating pension reform will cause much more hardship on the employees than approving it, especially those at the lower end of the pay scale who need every dollar of their salary to make ends meet today.  The City has provided each union leader the amount of savings that would have to come from pay cuts and/or lay-offs should the referendum fail. We have copies of this information.  If you’d like to see it, let us know and we’ll send it to you.

To see the exact ballot language and more information about what is being proposed, visit the city’s website at this link.

If you wish to vote by absentee ballot and have not yet requested the ballot for this election, you must contact the Supervisor of Elections Office immediately.  The absentee ballot request form may be filled out online from the SOE website at this link.  Or request it by phone 954-357-7055.

Be sure to vote.  This is no time for voter apathy in Hollywood.