The Murrieta City Council will consider changing labor contracts with city police and some city employees on Dec. 18, a move that city leaders said will save Murrieta’s strapped general fund more than $600,000 over the next year and a half.
Savings for City's Strapped General Fund
The city, Murrieta Police Officers Association, and Murrieta Police Management Association agreed earlier this year that a scheduled 6 percent pay raise for police officers would be used instead to pay some police retirement costs.
Murrieta police initiated the move. A city budget report in May showed a projected deficit in the city operating fund for the fiscal year that began on July 1. Further, out of the $36.4-million general fund operating budget, police made up 67 percent of $34.4 million in anticipated expenditures, according to that budget report.
To make ends meet, the city reduced its workforce by 19 employees in May, including eight layoffs of full-time employees. Staff reductions combined totaled a little more than $1 million of the $2 million needed to balance the city of Murrieta's operating budget for the fiscal year that started July 1, city leaders said then.
Police Capt. Dennis Vrooman, president of the Murrieta Police Management Association, said in July that the talks began as an effort to help the city balance its budget. "We needed to go to the table and find a solution and be proactive about it," he said then.
Assistant City Manager Jim Holston said in an email to Patch earlier this year, “We’re very appreciative of their willingness to help out in these tough economic times.” Most savings is expected to be realized from the contribution to the retirement fund, according to Holston.
To make that change happen, the City Council has to complete some changes with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS). The city will consider on Dec. 18 adopting a CalPERS Form Resolution of Intention for pension modifications for police safety employees effective Dec. 30 this year.
The council also will consider reclassifying two vacant police jobs so a computer forensic investigator and lead dispatcher can be hired amid a job-hiring freeze.
Proposed Retirement Changes for New Police Officers, Others
In more cost-cutting moves, the council also is scheduled on Dec. 18 to consider adopting a second-tier retirement formula for police and miscellaneous city employees hired on or after Dec. 30. The new formula basically would push back the retirement benefit age five years, according to city officials. City officials don't know yet exactly how much the city will save from this move, although savings are expected.
City staff members recently negotiated two-year agreements with the Murrieta General Employees Association and the Murrieta Supervisors Association, according to a report by Human Resources Director Jeffrey Price. City staff members also worked out an agreement for unrepresented employees.
According to the Human Resources Director’s report: “Employee pension contributions from members of the MPOA [Murrieta Police Officers Association] will generate a savings of $204,438 in the General Fund during the remainder of fiscal year 2012-13 and an ongoing annual savings of $408,877 thereafter.
Employee pension contributions from members of the MPMA [Murrieta Police Management Association] will generate a savings of $23,898 in the General Fund during the remainder of fiscal year 2012-13 and an ongoing annual savings of $47,795 thereafter."
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18 in the Council Chambers at Murrieta City Hall, One Town Square.