Tue01272015

Schools

MVLA revisits prospect of ninth-grade PE exemptions

MVLA revisits prospect of ninth-grade PE exemptions


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on a proposal to exempt ninth-grade student-athletes from taking PE. Students take part in a physical education class at Mount...

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Community

Midnight Express offers late-night rides from SF

Midnight Express offers late-night rides from SF


From Midnight Express Instagram
A group of millennial-aged Santas celebrating a night on the town prepare for a safe ride from San Francisco to their South Bay homes, courtesy of Cory Althoff’s new Midnight Express shuttle.

It’s no understatemen...

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Comment

More open than ever: Editorial

One of the Los Altos City Council’s objectives for 2015 is implementing an open-government policy. The title of the policy may be somewhat misleading, because it’s not as if the city has had a closed-government policy. But the new proposal goes beyon...

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Business

Cassidy Turley, DTZ plan to combine

Cassidy Turley, DTZ plan to combine


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Cassidy Turley, which has offices at 339 S. San Antonio Road, is combining with DTZ following its recent acquisition.

Commercial real estate services companies DTZ and Cassidy Turley have joined forces to operate as a sin...

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Books

Gawande's

Gawande's "Being Mortal" proves an important book on aging


Books about death and dying are usually not on my list of “must reads.”

I couldn’t resist, however, the best-selling “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (Metropolitan Books, 2014) by Atul Gawande.

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People

JUDY HOFFMANN

JUDY HOFFMANN

Judy Hoffmann passed away unexpectedly October 17, 2014 in New York City. It was only fitting Judy would be traveling and enjoying special adventures in so many different places until the very end.

Judy has lived since 1969 in Los Altos with her h...

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Travel

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill


Courtesy of Raúl Cañibano
Cuban photographer Raúl Cañibano is set to appear at Foothill College tonight. His work – including the image “Series: Guajira’s Land, Viñales, 2007,” right – is on display at the KCI Gallery t...

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Stepping Out

TheatreWorks launches '2 Pianos' in Mtn. View

TheatreWorks launches '2 Pianos' in Mtn. View


Suellen Fitzsimmons/Special to the Town Crier
Christopher Tocco stars in TheatreWorks’ “2 Pianos 4 Hands,” which opened last week.

TheatreWorks’ production of “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is scheduled to run through Feb. 15 at the Mountain View Center fo...

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Spiritual Life

Start something great by ringing in the new year with prayer

There is a tradition, which I’m told originates in the Midwest, that calls for people to pray in the new year. A few years ago, I was invited to a friend’s house and a number of people stayed up until midnight (approximately two hours pa...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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Pension study says city OK for now, but trouble may lie ahead: Rate obligation could increase substantially in next couple of years

A recently completed study on the state of the city’s California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) obligations revealed that Los Altos’ contributions may rise significantly by the end of the decade.

The study, presented at the Oct. 8 Los Altos City Council meeting, took the city’s Financial Commission more than 100 hours to complete.

The study concluded that while the city may not see near-term financial challenges – noting previous city efforts to help lower its obligations – Los Altos’ public employee pension contribution rates may increase by as much as 30-40 percent over a five-year period starting in fiscal year 2015-2016. CalPERS has been managing the city’s pension plans – totaling more than 270 plans for active and retired employees – since 1960.

Reached by the Town Crier, Los Altos Finance Director Russ Morreale said the city’s position would be far worse, if not for steps in recent years to mitigate some obligations.

According to Morreale, a CalPERS side-fund paydown saved the city between $4 million and $5 million in liability over the past five years. The city also adopted a second tier of retirement plans to reduce benefit costs and established a $600,000 reserve fund this year to weather future sticker shock, he said. Morreale called the potential 30-40 percent rate increase outlined in the report a “pretty conservative estimate.”

“The city has taken the right actions, but there are some significant challenges ahead of us,” said Morreale, who echoed a similar tone during the city’s budget review process in June. “We are expecting significant rate increases.”

Per the commission report, Morreale noted that city pensions are now 77 percent funded, slightly higher than the CalPERS pension system as a whole at 74 percent, as of June 2011 data. The city has a net unfunded market liability of $21 million.

“That is a long-term liability – it doesn’t have to be paid tomorrow – but what it does indicate is that funding levels are lower than preferred,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is content with 77 percent.”

The report pointed to several factors, including fluctuating annual returns on CalPERS investments – 3.8 percent over the past five years but as high as 9.5 percent over a 30-year term – for the murky outlook. Conversely, CalPERS operates pension investments under an assumed return rate – also known as an assumed discount rate – of 7.5 percent. A 2011-2012 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury called the actuarial rate “unrealistically high,” the report noted.

Other factors outlined include legislation and the 2008 financial crisis, as well as longer life expectancy of retirees than originally assumed. The report noted that the upcoming outcome of a current review by CalPERS of its investment policies and actuarial methods will likely lead to future rate increases.

“Changes are coming. CalPERS is reformulating, if you will,” Morreale said. “Most likely, we’ll be in a higher rate environment, so stay cautious – that’s the message here.”

The report concluded that terminating CalPERS plans via a buyout isn’t recommended. A buyout, the report outlined, carries a cost of $62 million – which Morreale termed “unaffordable, given the money involved.” In that scenario, CalPERS would apply a “risk-free” investment return based on U.S. Department of Treasury rates, according to the study.

To read the pension study, visit the city of Los Altos website at losaltosca.gov.

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