Santa Ana Police and Service Unions Approve Givebacks

Santa Ana's police and service employees unions this week ratified agreements with the city that would close a substantial chunk of the $30-million budget deficit going into next fiscal year.

The deals are a mix of permanent and temporary givebacks. Members of the Santa Ana Police Officers Association would be contributing 7.9 percent of their paychecks toward their pensions, a large increase from the 2.42 percent they currently pay. Service employees will also be contributing more toward retirement and will take additional furlough hours.

The combined savings of the agreements total $10.7 million for next fiscal year, and savings for the current fiscal year total about $4.5 million, according to figures provided in a staff report.

Yet council members acknowledge that some of the cuts — like deferred payout of police overtime costs — are only temporary, making those concessions a short-term fix to a massive, built-in budget deficit that won't be closed until permanent changes are made to city operations.

The police association's concessions on pensions are also less dramatic than they appear. The additional contributions toward retirement will come from raises police officers received this year and are scheduled to receive again next July, according to the staff report.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on both agreements Monday.

"To be honest with you, it's something to get us through right now, because we don't have reopeners," Councilman Sal Tinajero said last month, referring to the police association's locked-in labor contract with the city. "I think this buys about 18 months."

Police union president John Franks and Joaquin Avalos, president of the Santa Ana chapter of the Service Employees International Union, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The city signed labor agreements with its public safety bargaining groups as recently as February that extend through 2013 and 2014, deferring some expenditures but not saving nearly enough to stave off the budget crisis. Nearly 80 percent of the general fund is spent on public safety.

The police association's contract extension, which was signed in April, gave officers a 3 percent across-the-board salary raise in July. Firefighters under their current contract are set to receive a 2.5 percent raise in January.

Santa Ana's firefighters union has yet to hammer out their agreement with the city, mainly because negotiations were on hold while the Orange County Fire Authority prepared an outsourcing study. That study, which was made public earlier this month, concluded that outsourcing fire services to the regional fire authority would save the city $10.6 million in the first year.



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