‘The board offered what I think is a fair compensation to everyone’

Carmelita Islas Mendez

Cerritos College plans to move forward with the Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan, commonly known as the golden handshake.

The Board of Trustees meeting where the bill was adopted was held on Dec. 6. The bill was approved after a closed-session discussion was held to debate the approval or disapproval of SERP.

The controversy of SERP is in the differences in retirements packages offered to employee groups.

The retirement plan which is being offered to faculty and classified non-management is that they will receive 70 percent of their salary over a span of five years.

However, management employees would only receive a lump sum of $40,000.

Cerritos College employees such as David Fabish, dean of liberal arts, and Sandra Marks, president of the Association of Cerritos College Management Employees, attended the meeting to communicate their disagreement with the golden handshake.

In December, Fabish said to the board, “I am offered a handshake, but it ain’t golden.”

Fabish continued saying, “You are unique in the potential that you would be that first board to treat one employee group worse that another.”

According to Dr. Jose Fierro, president and superintendent of Cerritos College, the board tried to reach an agreement to give each employee group “a fair compensation,” and said that this decision was not taken to anger people.

Fabish said, “I think this is true. This isn’t meant to spite any particular group, but then how does one address that sentiment.”

In December, Marks said, “We are asking to be valued the same for our years of service. We are asking to be given the same certificate of appreciation package.”

Felipe Lopez, vice president of business services and assistant superintendent, said, “SERP is going to help us lower our budget deficit because currently we do have a budget deficit of $3.8 million. It’s not going to anybody’s pocket, but it’s going to help us balance our budget.”

The estimated savings hoped to be brought in by the SERP is $3,292,600. This is expected to be collected over five years.

Fierro explained the board’s decision by saying, “We are essentially trying to save money in order to not be in a shortfall at the end of this year. However, we may actually be in a short fall and end up using some our reserves.”

Fierro said that the decision to offer SERP was done looking at the college and “making sure the best financial decision was taken for the institution in the upcoming years.”