Wed04162014

News

Late postal hours help last-minute filers

Late postal hours help last-minute filers

The crowd at Los Altos' post office wasn't epic when we checked today – but come tax day tomorrow (April 15) many locals may be lining up to file at the last minute.

Post offices in Los Altos and Mountain View stop collecting mail at 5 p.m. tomorr...

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Schools

Loyola School hosts STEM Expo

Loyola School hosts STEM Expo


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Ari Garabedia, above right, demonstrates his team’s project for curious classmates at Loyola School’s STEM Expo.

Some local schools are taking a different twist on the traditional science fair this year.

As a pilot p...

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Community

Chef Pépin to sign books in Los Altos

Chef Pépin to sign books in Los Altos

Master chef, author and educator Jacques Pépin is scheduled to make a personal appearance in Los Altos April 24. The “original Iron Chef” will be signing copies of his most recent books 3-5 p.m. at Main Street Café and Books, 134 Main St. The interna...

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Sports

Fruitful day on the Farm

Fruitful day on the Farm


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Brian Yeager soars in the triple jump at the Stanford Invitational Saturday.

Last weekend’s Stanford Invitational attracted the best high school track and field athletes in the region, including sever...

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Comment

The mysterious force in Los Altos: The Rockey Road

Shh ... it’s a secret. No it isn’t! I recently read a story in another paper asking if Google cash were behind the Los Altos downtown makeover and why. My first thought was, “Who cares?” We are an intelligent group in a small town where it is very di...

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Special Sections

Jewish food festival reaches beyond bagels

Who knew you could get a decent knish in Silicon Valley?

For at least one day, local foodies are gathering 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 27 at the Hazon Jewish Food Festival at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto to eat their way throug...

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Business

For the skin they're in : Shared interest in organic skin care leads duo to form company

For the skin they're in : Shared interest in organic skin care leads duo to form company


Ellie Van Houtte/town Crier
Nancy Newsom, left, and Kit Gordon started Botanic Organic in 2011 after they discovered a shared passion for creating organic, handmade skin-care products. The company now offers more than 15 products for adults and infa...

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Books

Local Author Spotlight

In an effort to support authors from Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View, many self-published, Book Buzz periodically spotlights their books and offers information on where to purchase them. Local authors are encouraged to submit brief summa...

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People

MARGARET C. SNEAD

MARGARET C. SNEAD

In Cupertino, April 5, 2014

Age 95, preceded in death by her parents, John and Isabelle Coullie, her husband, Dr. Claude Rabert Snead, and her sister Maisie Bicking.

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Travel

Sausalito: Explore the historical city with world-class views

Sausalito: Explore the historical city with world-class views


Eren Göknar/ Special to the Town Crier
Sausalito offers panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. A number of companies schedule boat tours that sail past Angel Island and Alcatraz.

On a clear day, Sausalito offers spectacular views of the San Franc...

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Stepping Out

LA Stage Company's 'Harold and Maude' opens this weekend at Bus Barn Theater

LA Stage Company's 'Harold and Maude' opens this weekend at Bus Barn Theater


courtesy of Los Altos Stage Company
Warren Wernick and Lillian Bogovich play the title characters in the Los Altos Stage Company production of “Harold and Maude.” The play runs through May 4.

The Los Altos Stage Company’s production of “Harold a...

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Spiritual Life

Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast highlights matters of faith

Pat Gelsinger and Reggie Littlejohn come from different backgrounds and occupations, but both, guided by their Christian faith, have become leaders committed to helping others. The two shared their experiences at the 20th annual Silicon Valley Prayer...

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Magazine

A yoga class a day keeps the stress away

A yoga class a day keeps the stress away


Van Houtte/Town Crier Yoga of Los Altos hosts a variety of classes, including Strong Flow Vinyasa, above, taught by Doron Hanoch. Yin Yoga instructor Janya Wongsopa guides a student in the practice, below.

It’s nearly 9 a.m. on a Monday mornin...

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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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