As cities like Arcadia take steps toward changing their pension programs, municipalities around the San Gabriel Valley are eyeing the deals their neighbors strike with their public employees unions.  
Pension reform has been an issue of discussion in the past few years in light of increasing economic woes, but the past twelve months have seen "the beginning of this move to modify and change these pension programs," said West Covina City Manager Andrew Pasmant.
For many cities the largest hurdle remains public safety employees. In most cases the members comprise the majority of pension costs faced by government.
"We'll be watching what other cities are doing that are currently in negotiations," Pasmant said. "It kind of sets the stage for what market conditions are going to be in the San Gabriel Valley ... In trying to retain employees and be competitive, you have to compare where we are with other cities."
The Arcadia City Council approved an ordinance last week whereby new Arcadia police officers and firefighters hired by the city are now required to pay their full employee share, or 9 percent, of their pension costs - an amount long covered by the city.
In addition, tentative agreements are in place with four out of five employee unions to have members pay their full share by the next three years. Annual increases in employee costs during that period would be offset by equivalent annual raises, officials said.

"It's important that public employees are being treated somewhat equally to private sector employees and now in the city of Arcadia, over the next three years, our public employees will be paying for their own pension costs just like it happens in the private sector," said Arcadia Councilman Mickey Segal.
"I believe we'll be one of the few, if any, cities in the San Gabriel Valley that are able to achieve this in one (multi-year) contract."
While such changes are "a significant feat," pension reform locally is moving in a similar direction, said said Jeff Collier, Whittier's chief assistant city manager.
In West Covina, six non-public safety units have recently agreed to pay their full employee share of pension costs. City officials hope they can achieve the same result with their fire fighters and police officers when those contracts are up next year.
In Whittier, city officials are now negotiating with non-safety employees in an effort to get them to pay their full share.
In Pasadena, two out of ten bargaining units so far have agreed to pay the full employee share of their pension costs phased in over one or two years.
These cities are doing what many others in the state are doing to deal with "unsustainable" pension costs - negotiating significant changes to pension offerings, said Santa Monica's City Manager Rod Gould, who headed the pension reform committee of the City Manager's Department of the League of California Cities.
"Two common phenomena you're seeing is cities are getting employees to pick up the employees' share of their pension costs, and many cities are instituting lower pension offerings for new employees - the so-called second tier - to help control costs long term," he said.
Huge losses in stock markets and other investments made by pension funds during the latest recession, enhanced pension plans and increased life spans of employees have conspired to drive up the costs of pensions for the next decade or even decades, Gould said.
"A lot of cities are tiptoeing into it by asking for a multi-year contract for employees to pick up increasing shares of the employees' share," he said. "In some cases, they are making it less painful by giving them raises."
While four of Arcadia's public employee groups have agreed to pay their full employee share by the third year, the council still must approve the contracts, said City Manager Don Penman.
Only the Arcadia Police Civilian Employees Association has not yet agreed to a contract.
A representative for the 24-member organization said its members wanted to see the contract the police officers' union has signed in order to compare it with their proposed contract.

In addition, the organization wants other rights only given to the police officers' union.