http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2012/02/24/new-police-contracts-sets-the-pace-for-city-employee-pension-reform


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - February 24, 2012

New police contracts sets the pace for city employee pension reform

Kudos to the Pleasanton Police Officers' Association (PPOA) and city of Pleasanton negotiators on reaching an amicable agreement on a new contract that has officers contributing toward their pensions. Starting Saturday, March 3, when a new pay period begins, those in the Police Department covered by the contract will contribute 3% of the Employer Paid Member Contribution toward their CalPERS retirement program. In July, the contribution jumps to 6% with the full 9% member contribution to be deducted from their pay beginning July 1, 2013. The new contract runs from this month until May 31, 2014.

The PPOA covers a total of 83 sworn police employees, including 61 police officers and 12 sergeants. The ranks of lieutenant and above are designated management employees and not represented by the PPOA.

Representatives from the police union's bargaining unit and city's management team of Nelson Fialho, city manager, and Julie Yuan-Miu, assistant city manager and director of administrative services, met over the last several months to develop a successor contract to the one that expired last May 31. These negotiations follow a new contract signed by the Pleasanton City Employees Association last May. That contract, affecting 227 city workers, calls for members to contribute 4% of their pay towards CalPERS' retirement plan starting July 1, with contribution steps starting at 2%, then rising to 3% last December.

Earlier, senior city management voluntarily agreed to start contributing 4% of their salaries toward their retirements with City Manager Fialho saying he would start contributing 8% immediately.

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, when the provisions of the new police union contract were adopted, City Attorney Jonathan Lowell also announced that contract negotiations are under way with the firefighters union that represents employees of the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department. As part of signing their last contract, the firefighters agreed to start contributing 2% toward their retirement fund.

The cost to fund the CalPERS pension program is comprised of two parts. The first is a variable employer rate, which is expressed as a percentage of salary for covered employees. The second is a fixed 9% contribution for which members are responsible. The city of Pleasanton has been paying the employees' contributions based on agreements reached in previous years in lieu of employees receiving salary adjustments.

Because of inflation and increases in comparable job salaries in neighboring cities, Pleasanton also has steadily increased wages here. With the city's unfunded pension liability soaring in recent years, especially as CalPERS investments soured during the recession, the City Council and the city's management team decided to end the free ride for employee pensions and restore individual contributions. Although this new agreement with the Pleasanton Police Officers' Association won't solve the city's unfunded liability problem, it goes a long way toward putting the city -- and taxpayers -- on track to paying down the debt as well as setting a pattern for future negotiations for all city employees.

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