Update 9:50 p.m.: The Benicia Police Officers Association voted to ratify contract changes that will save taxpayers nearly $300,000. The vote was 13 to 10 wth five members not present and not voting.
The BPOA by-laws don't allow absent members to vote by proxy. Kevin Rose, president of BPOA, said the vote may have been different if all the members had shown up for the meeting.
The meeting lasted approximately two hours and 30 minutes according to Rose.
Rose said a press release would be sent out by the end of the week outlining the union's position on the new salary and benefits agreement.
Police officers and other department employees are voting Wednesday on contract changes that would cut their pay and benefits nearly 7 percent and save the city about $300,000.
On Tuesday the Benicia City Council to approve a resolution amending the contract with the Benicia Police Officers Association. The contract changes were designed to save taxpayers nearly $300,000 and help to close a $1.7 million in the Benicia’s 2011/2012 fiscal year budget.
The vote by the council, on a contract that hasn’t been ratified by the affected employees, was unanimous. While there was no discussion during the open session by members of the council or public comment the details have been discussed by council members in closed session.
The ratification vote by the union is scheduled for tonight. Union president Kevin Rose said ratification was far from certain. “It could go either way,” said Rose. “I’m not kidding you when I say your guess is as good as mine.”
The agreement will cost officers 6.86 percent of their salary and benefits with most of the money coming out of salary.
- Currently the city pays an amount equal to 2 percent of an officer’s pay into Vantage Care, a medical plan for retirees. That benefit is eliminated in the new agreement.
- The agreement reduces overtime for training by one hour a month.
- It cuts overtime for court appearances from four to three hours a month. Both of these items represent relatively modest savings.
- Officers currently receive eight hours of sick leave each month. The current agreement allows them to receive the cash equivalent of 25 percent of unused sick leave each month. Elimination of this provision is expected to save taxpayers about $32,000 a year.
- The current agreement has officers paying 9 percent of their salary to PERS, California’s Public Employee Retirement System. The city pays a fixed amount into PERS as well. The new agreement has officers paying an additional 5.3 percent of their paycheck into PERS system, for a total of about 14 percent of their salary, to offset the city’s required contribution. This provision is expected to save the city $172,000 a year.
The current agreement with officers also caps the city’s share of health insurance payments. Since the cap is fixed and health insurance premiums go up each year the amount of the out of pocket expense for officers is going up each year.
According to Administrative services director Ann Cardwell, if the BPOA doesn’t ratify the agreement the next step is to meet with representatives of the union to determine if the two sides are at impasse. "While the City certainly hopes the BPOA will ratify the tentative agreement, if that does not occur, then the City will determine its next steps consistent with its impasse procedures." said Cardwell.
The last provision of the proposed contract requires a contract change with CalPers. In order to recognize the savings immediately union members will put this money toward their health insurance premiums. Once the contract with CalPERS is changed the money will go directly to the retirement fund agency.