Westminster City Council members Wednesday approved a $1.65 million labor deal with the local police union, giving officers a six percent salary boost along with other benefits like cash bonuses in exchange for making them pay into their pensions. 

The council voted 4-0 to approve the contract, with councilman Tyler Diep abstaining.

The two-year contract, the result of six months of negotiations, will cost the city $1.65 million over two years, with $460,000 as a one-time cost and $678,000 on an annual basis. 

Westminster continues to nurse a structural deficit of $1.7 million, the legacy of the Gov. Jerry Brown’s elimination of redevelopment agencies statewide in 2011, which left Westminster with a $10.4 million deficit.

For years Westminster depended heavily on its redevelopment agency to subsidize staff time with $6 million per year in revenue, resulting in devastating cuts to staff, salaries and city services when it was cut. 

The police contract, which expires in June 2016, includes the following provisions:

  • Increased employee retirement contributions, from 6 to 12 percent for sworn staff and 5 to 8 percent for non-sworn staff.
  • Salary increase of 6 percent for sworn and 3 percent for non-sworn staff
  • Additional $200 per month health insurance benefit in 2014 and $100 per month in 2015.
  • A $2,500 stipend for all union members in 2014-15 and $1,500 in 2015-16. The cash stipends are one-time costs, meaning they don’t factor into salary calculations for employee retirement benefits.
  • Increased Field Training Officer pay up to $4.00 an hour
  • Change in bereavement pay to allow additional time off in the event of the death of a spouse or child
  • Increase in holiday hours
  • Improvement in special assignment pay

Sgt. Mike Chapman, the lead negotiator for the union, said the wage increase is long overdue. 

“The POA will not have had a true cost of living raise for 7 years,” Chapman said. 

Administrative Services Director Michael Solorza, the city’s lead negotiator, said increasing employee retirement contributions is part of a larger trend for cities across the state that are struggling to reduce the increasing cost of public employee retirement benefits.

The Police Department accounts for 54 percent of the total city budget, Solorza said, costs that are “relatively fixed.” 

Solorza said it has been 5 years since municipal employees have had a raise.

The city lost 67 employees in 2012 to layoffs and early retirements as a result of the elimination of redevelopment. 

Contact the writer at thyanhvo@gmail.com or follow her on twitter @thyanhvo.

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