City government

City Council asked to impose terms on fire union

By From page A1 | December 15, 2013

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Who: Davis City Council

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (a joint meeting with the Davis Planning Commission precedes at 5:30 p.m.)

Where: Community Chambers, City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.

Watch it: Live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99; streamed at www.cityofdavis.org/media

For the second time in as many months, City Manager Steve Pinkerton will recommend to the Davis City Council on Tuesday that it impose its last, best and final offer on a major employee association in the city.

This time around, it’s the members of the Davis Professional Firefighters Association Local 3494 who stand to watch their overall compensation diminished, similar to the Davis City Employees Association, on whom the council imposed terms in November.

“Imposing the recommended terms and conditions of employment will bring the costs of the Davis Professional Firefighters union in line with the approved amount budgeted for fiscal year 2013-14,” Pinkerton said in his report to the council.

“It costs the city approximately $28,000 per month each month an agreement is not reached with the Davis Professional Firefighters Local 3494.”

The council’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. Watch it live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99. The meeting also can be streamed on the city’s website at www.cityofdavis.org/media.

A joint meeting with the city’s Planning Commission will start at 5:30 p.m. in the chambers.

The city has reached full three-year agreements with each of the other major employee groups in Davis, including the Davis Police Officers Association and the Program, Administrative and Support Employees Association.

All employee association MOUs expired in June 2012.

Battling several forces pulling on the city’s coffers — including rising CalPERS pension costs, looming and expensive road and bike path repairs and spiraling retiree medical costs — the council has asked each group to make several substantial concessions.

But while the council and city management were able to lock in deals with two major employee groups, DCEA and the fire union have not been willing to make such drastic changes.

Instead, as the council may agree with again Tuesday, management has suggested imposition of terms.

“This imposition will not and cannot establish a new contract, but rather, will change some of the terms and conditions of employment under which the parties are currently operating,” the report said.

“(If the council imposes) the city will, of course, then conduct new negotiations with the Davis Professional Firefighters to try to reach agreement on a new memorandum of understanding for the following year or years.”

The concessions primarily focus on employee benefits, but in some cases the terms dramatically affect take-home pay for the employees.

For example, the proposed terms for the fire union reduce the cafeteria cash-out benefit from a maximum of about $1,400 per month to $500 per month by June 30, 2015.

The city gives employees a set amount of money each month to buy health insurance. If the employees do not buy the city’s insurance because they’re covered by a spouse’s plan, the employee can then take that insurance money home in cash.

Davis firefighters average $93,000 per year in salary. With the cash-out benefit, any firefighter taking the maximum amount could take home an additional $16,800.

The terms proposed to the council also would require the union to pay 3 percent of the city’s share of pension costs in addition to the 9 percent that the fire association pays of its own share of the costs.

Members of the Davis Police Officers Association, meanwhile, pay 12 percent of their own share of pension costs. Police began paying 3 percent of the city’s share in 2009.

Further, the imposed terms would reduce uniform allowance pay and eliminate pre-paid overtime for the firefighters.

Because the city doesn’t believe it can impose changes to retiree health benefits, those terms would remain the same, similar to Davis’ arrangement with DCEA. However, the employees will not receive salary increases that the city has promised in exchange for that particular concession.

The city is looking to switch retiree health coverage onto a two-tiered program where new employees are offered less in retirement for health care.

Budget review/preview 

In addition to presenting a midyear budget update Tuesday, Pinkerton also will ask the council for policy direction on how the city should approach handling the budget next year.

Facing several difficult fiscal challenges — including the need to round up money to pave city roads and pay for pension and health care costs — the council may look to develop a special tax, or increase the city’s sales tax, to help balance Davis’ budget.

In the staff report, Pinkerton says the city is facing a $5.1 million “structural imbalance” for fiscal year 2014-15.

Central Park restrooms 

Continuing the item from last week, the council will make its final decision Tuesday on whether to demolish the Works Progress Administration restroom facility in Central Park.

Explorit looking for help

After the council directed staff last month to work with Explorit Science Center, the city’s long-serving nonprofit science education center that has fallen on hard times financially, staff will return with dollar estimates of how much it will cost to keep the organization afloat.

Staff recommends enough funding, at least, to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the facility in Mace Ranch Park that the city leases the center at no cost, and some additional funding to keep the operation running through next year, roughly in the range of $20,000 total.

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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