Gilroy council ratifies police contract

No plans for downtown police beat

In a 6-1 vote held Thursday evening, the Gilroy City Council
approved a two-year agreement with police that will save the city
$800,000 annually and even more in the long run.
In a 6-1 vote held Thursday evening, the Gilroy City Council approved a two-year agreement with police that will save the city $800,000 annually and even more in the long run.

Breaking with tradition, the new contract introduces a two-tier retirement system in which new hires have cheaper retirement plans than current staff and calls for police officers to begin paying the 9 percent employee contribution to their retirement program out of their salaries, a sum the city currently contributes annually at a cost of about $800,000.

Councilman Craig Gartman cast the opposing vote, though he did not offer any discussion prior to the vote.

“I didn’t agree with the terms,” he said Friday. “This is only a two-year contract. One of the things I was hoping for was I wanted police and fire contracts to come up at the same time.”

The city recently reached an agreement with the firefighters union, but that contract will last for three years.

Gartman said he had wanted negotiations with the two bargaining groups to coincide “so we don’t get into the same situation as before where one union gets what the other demands and plays off each other back and forth.”

The agreement with the Gilroy Police Officers Association comes on the heels of similar concessions made earlier this summer by the Gilroy firefighters. However, the two-tier retirement system differs by allowing police officers to continue to begin collecting retirement benefits at 50. Firefighters begin collecting retirement benefits at 55.

“I don’t think we should be treating public safety officers any differently,” said Gartman. “They should be treated the same, and if one is willing to have a particular retirement age, we should strive for them both to be equal.”

Still, the city expects the introduction of a two-tiered retirement system to result in significant long-term savings.

Under their old contract, Gilroy police officers received a retirement benefit of 3 percent of their highest annual salary for every year of service, up to 90 percent. They started collecting these benefits at age 50. For example, an officer who topped out at $100,000 a year and served 30 years on the force collected $90,000 upon retirement. Under the new agreement, new officers will receive a scaled back retirement benefit of 2 percent of their highest annual salary for every year of service, starting at 50. Instead of the $90,000 he would collect under the old plan, an incoming officer would collect $60,000 annually upon retirement.

New firefighters will also collect 2 percent of their highest annual salary for every year of service, unlike the 3 percent their predecessors collected, starting at age 55.

The new police agreement also ends furloughs and hold salaries at July 1, 2008 levels. Officers each had to take 120 hours of furlough time last fiscal year, City Administrator Tom Haglund said.

The agreement reduces costs associated with the K-9 and Mounted Unit programs, and stipulates officers participating in the field training officer program will be paid for actual time worked instead of a 5 percent monthly stipend.

The majority of the contract involved concessions on the part of the union but Mitch Madruga, president of the Gilroy Police Officers Association, pointed to a few bright spots that gained the favor of union members. In the new contract, the city agreed not to place a measure repealing binding arbitration on the ballot. Binding arbitration allows the city and police union to bring in an impartial third-party arbiter to settle differences if either of them determines that labor negotiations are at an impasse.

The city and police have never had to turn to a third-party arbiter to resolve disputes, but police still want that as an option, Madruga said.

Additionally, members of the police union will receive an additional 40 hours of personal leave in each of the next two fiscal years, given that one officer’s time off doesn’t trigger another officer’s overtime. The extra hours of personal leave are a perk for police but a no-cost item to the city, Madruga said. Unlike regular vacation time, the 40 hours have no cash value and must be used by the end of the fiscal year, Haglund said.

The labor agreement will take effect retroactively starting July 1, 2010, and will remain in place through June 30, 2012.

In addition to the resolution authorizing the contract, the council also approved two resolutions required by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System confirming police will now begin paying their own 9 percent employee contribution out of their paychecks and that the contribution will be deducted before taxes.

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