Piedmont City Council members approved a new contract with the Piedmont Police Officers Association Monday night, an agreement that that doesn't please anyone entirely.
The contract — technically a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU — covers the period from Jan. 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013 and addresses salary and fringe benefits for the city's sworn police officers. A staff report notes that council members reached consensus on the MOU "after numerous closed sessions."
Provisions of the MOU include:
- No salary increases during the term of the agreement, although officers remain eligible for "step" increases based on length of service. Current salaries are $6,172 at Step 1 (0-13 months), $6,779 at Sept 2 (13-24 months) and $7,448 at Step 3 (25 months and thereafter). Sergeants receive $8,852 per month. The required time period for advancing to the next step may be shortened "when an employee demonstrates outstanding capacity in performing his/her duties." Officers with a specialized assignment (canine, traffic, detective, juvenile, field training) receive an additional 5 percent, while those working a night shift (7 p.m.-7 a.m.) receive an additional 4 percent in many circumstances.
- A two-tier retirement plan, with lesser benefits and higher contributions for officers hired on or after Sept. 1, 2012. Existing employees will contribute a slightly higher amount toward retirement benefits.
- Employees to contribute $100 per month toward retiree medical benefits.
- Employees may accumulate an additional 16 hours of compensatory time off ("comp time"), to a maximum of 160 hours.
- Officers assigned to watch commander duties (normally a sergeant's job) may choose to receive cash or comp time. Previously only compensatory time off was available. (Does not apply to sergeants.)
- Tuition reimbursement increased by $400 a year, to $2,400.
- The ability to sell back a maximum of one year’s accrual of unused vacation time, provided that two weeks of vacation and/or leave time is taken in the year of the sellback and that one week of vacation accrual remains on the books.
City Finance Director Mark Bichsel said the city's budget for employee benefits will rise by about $300,000 for 2012-2013 compared to the previous year, to about $5.7 million. That's partly due to having three more paramedics on full-time duty, he said.
The city's 2011 Municipal Tax Review Committee had recommended capping employee benefits at $5.1 million, and five members of the MTRC sent a letter to the council in advance of Monday's meeting saying that the police MOU "continues business as usual, without even beginning to address the long-term problem." You may read the complete letter from the MTRC members here.
Council members took varying approaches in their discussion before voting on the MOU.
"I think the MOU is a keen balancing act," said Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka, who chaired the meeting in Mayor John Chiang's absence.
Councilmember Jeff Wieler said, "You don't want employees feeling they have been rooked. You don't want the police in a bad mood. We're a service business and only as good as the people delivering the service."
"To our employees, this [MOU] is a concession," said Councilmember Garrett Keating. "But we haven't capped benefits." Keating said he's still concerned about rising benefit costs.
"It's not a cap, but it's pretty close," City Administrator Geofrrey Grote responded. He noted that the city has hired a consultant to study the benefit situation.
You may read the staff report and complete MOU on the City of Piedmont website.
Executive Search for New Finance Director
The council also approved hiring the executive search firm of William Avery and Associates to recruit candidates for the position of city finance and human resources director. The position will become vacant in the spring of 2013 with Mark Bichsel's retirement, announced earlier this year.
Avery submitted the lowest of three proposals received by the city, with an estimated cost of $20,900.
Vice Mayor Fujioka noted that Avery's proposal, unlike the other two, did not include background checks on candidates. Instead, the firm's proposal includes an additional charge of $400 per candidate for such checks.
Fujioka said the city should require Avery to include the checks in its proposal.
City Administrator Grote said he had planned to used a different firm — one used by the city in the past — for the background checks but that he would negotiate with Avery on including them.
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