Police, fire unions agree to benefit cuts, defer raises

DOWNEY - In a calculated effort to prevent layoffs and cut city spending, Downey police officers and firefighters have agreed to forfeit scheduled pay increases and accept reduced medical and retirement benefits over the next two years. The agreement, approved by the Downey City Council last Tuesday, includes renegotiated contracts between the city and the Downey Police Officers' and Downey Firemen's associations, which collectively represent 164 sworn non-management police and fire personnel.

The benefit reductions helped the city close a nearly $11.5 million shortfall in the 2012-13 fiscal year budget.

While no layoffs are included in the contracts, the firefighters' union did agree to a "modification to the existing minimum manning (staffing) provision," which reduced the city's total fire personnel from 63 to 54 workers. The city also took one of the city's four fire engines out of service, saving another $1.8 million.

As a part of the agreement, Downey police officers agreed to defer a scheduled 4.25 percent raise until the 2014 fiscal year, saving the city nearly $745,000 in salary costs this year alone.

Starting next year, employees in both departments will also be responsible for contributing 4 percent compensation towards their pension costs. In July 2014, Downey firefighters are required to pay an additional 1.5 percent while Downey police will contribute another 2 percent towards retirement.

According to the renegotiated contract, new hires will be placed in a "second tier" 3 percent at 55 retirement program where employees must pay the full 9 percent contribution towards retirement.

During negotiations, public safety employees also conceded several medical benefits and will now contribute more to their healthcare under the city's self-funded medical plan. Effective Oct. 1, the city will contract with CalPERS and offer police and fire personnel the PERScare medical plan.

As the cuts take effect in each department, the city is expected to save an estimated $3 million every year until 2014.

In response to the cuts in benefits, the firefighters' union last week petitioned the city to consider contracting with the county for fire services - a request that was received with mixed reaction from council members.

Late last month, the Downey City Council, for the first time in three years, passed a balanced budget, choosing to cut spending and conserve the city's reserves, which currently stand at nearly $19.5 million.

********** Published: July 19, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 14