Tue06302015

News

LAH council approves  Page Mill Road expansion

LAH council approves Page Mill Road expansion


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The Los Altos Hills City Council endorsed a plan to widen the congested Page Mill Road to six lanes between the Interstate 280 interchange and Foothill Expressway.

Infamously congested Page Mill Road should be widened to ...

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Schools

Local muralist tells a story of young Los Altos at two schools

Local muralist tells a story of young Los Altos at two schools


Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Los Altos muralist Morgan Bricca, above, created a work at Covington School commissioned by the Class of 2015.

Just as school ended this year, new color bloomed on two Los Altos campuses – public art projects commissi...

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Community

Los Altos girl out to 'squash' inequality: 10-year-old raises funds for female players with motto Equal pay for play

Los Altos girl out to 'squash' inequality: 10-year-old raises funds for female players with motto Equal pay for play


Courtesy of Lisa Bardin
Mika Bardin displays a certificate of participation she received at the 2015 U.S. Junior Squash Championships. Although Mika is not competing in the upcoming NetSuite Open Squash Championships, she is helping other female pl...

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Sports

Hurdling adversity

Hurdling adversity


courtesy of Nicole Goodwin
Ella Goodwin, hurdling, above, has come a long way since her early-childhood battle with leukemia.

While Nicole Goodwin is proud of daughter Ella’s athletic achievements, it’s not her skills on the soccer field...

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Comment

No confidence in civic center proposals: Editorial

Few Los Altos issues have become more convoluted than the development of the 18-acre Hillview civic center property. Most agree that the area, as currently configured, needs improvement. But nothing has happened in the nearly 10 years since serious d...

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Special Sections

Star-spangled manor: Orange Avenue home boasts Americana theme

Star-spangled manor: Orange Avenue home boasts Americana theme


Megan V. WInslow/Town Crier
Los Altos resident Pinky Whelan’s Orange Avenue home features a patriotic theme, evident in her living room decor, her historical collections and displays and her welcoming entrance.

Let’s hear it for the red...

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Business

Thai Silks shutters Los Altos store this month

Thai Silks shutters Los Altos store this month


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
After more than 50 years in business in downtown Los Altos, Thai Silks is closing up shop at 252 State St. by the end of the month. The store will continue to offer its inventory online and via phone.

A longtime downtown ...

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Books

People

ALAN FRAZIER KREMEN, MD, PHD

ALAN FRAZIER KREMEN, MD, PHD

Alan Frazier Kremen, MD, PhD, aged 68, loving father & surgeon, of Stockton peacefully passed away on June 13th, 2015.

Born in Minneapolis on December 17, 1946, he received a BA from Stanford University, 1968, a PhD in Philosophy from the Univ...

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Travel

Venetian spa offers ways to de-stress

Venetian spa offers ways to de-stress


Courtesy of The VEnetian
The HydroSpa in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub at The Venetian in Las Vegas offers a muscle-relaxing bath and radiant lounge chairs.

Vegas cab drivers usually ask if you won or lost as soon as you get in their vehicles. They assum...

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Stepping Out

'Town' closes down

'Town' closes down


Chris Peoples/Special to the Town Crier
Hope Cladwell (played by Krista Joy Serpa) and Bobby Strong (Lewis Rawlinson) get romantic during their duet in “Urinetown: The Musical.”

The Los Altos Stage Company production of “Urinetown: The Musical” ...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Living it up Older adults aim to age in place

Living it up Older adults aim to age in place


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Local enthusiasts flock to the Los Altos Senior Center to play bocce ball. The center hosts informal games four days a week and occasional tournaments.

As baby boomers in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View nose...

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Inside Mountain View

Carrying the torch

Carrying the torch


Members of the Mountain View Police Department carry the Special Olympics torch as they run along El Camino Real between Sunnyvale and Palo Alto June 18. Members of the department participate in the relay annually to show their support for Spec...

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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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