A plan to contribute 5 percent of all city employees’ salary towards health care or pension plans has been accepted by city employee bargaining units.
The 5 percent contribution will not change an employee’s gross (total pre-deductions) pay but rather cut the net (take home) pay. The 5 percent taken out of the gross pay will be contributed towards health care benefits or pension plans; these monies will be taken out pretax.
The contributions made by employees will result in a net reduction of labor costs to the city and help close the budget gap.
There will be a public Budget Workshop Meeting on March 10, 2009 at 5pm at City Hall. The Turlock City Council will take action concerning this proposal at the meeting.
At a February 10, 2009 public mid-year budget review workshop, it was determined that the city had a General Fund budget deficit of $4 to $5 million. The main issue brought up was how to make the cuts and since the amount was so big, it was apparent that cutting salary payouts was unavoidable. The Interim City Manager Gary Hampton stated that even if every non police and fire position in the General Fund was cut (shutting down City Hall, no maintenance, etc), there would still be a deficit.
Salary cuts, layoffs, cutting jobs, work furloughs, paying towards health care, and reduction of community services were just some of the terms mentioned when discussing options.
This plan incorporates two of the terms, salary cuts and paying towards health care.
It has been reported that other options, such as work furloughs, have not been discussed formally in negotiations thus far. The 5 percent contribution appears to be the quickest and easiest solution to be applied across the entire organization (the Interim City Manager, Council Members, maintenance workers, police, fire, secretaries, etc).
Work furloughs would make sense because if employees are getting 5 percent less pay then they may want to take 5 percent of their time off work. Work furloughs would have been tough to implement across the board (fire, police, waste water treatment plant, etc schedules) and would reduce community services.
Work furloughs have been implemented in other government organizations such as the state, counties, and other cities but the City of Turlock and its employees are working to be fair, help save jobs, and maintain the quality of services they provide to the community.
Bargaining units held membership meetings where they voted to voluntarily negotiate towards the 5 percent solution.
The bargaining units had to agree to negotiate. If one of the bargaining units had voted to not negotiate, the entire proposal would be taken off the table. This could have created decision making resulting in layoffs.
Bargaining units that may have taken a stand could have faced what the Stockton Police are facing, layoffs in their area because of stalled out negotiations between their bargaining unit and the City of Stockton. The Stockton Police Department is facing layoffs of at least 29 officers (“Finger-pointing in negotiations on police layoffs”) and reports of up to 99 in the future. The City of Turlock and Turlock community are fortunate to have an organization with many departments that can pull together as one.
Turlock Firefighters Local 2434 was reportedly the first bargaining unit to vote and overwhelmingly agree to negotiate the take home pay cut. The Turlock City Employee Association met on Monday resulting in a 139-17 vote to move forward in working towards the solution. Turlock Associated Police Officers voted on Thursday night with accounts of heated discussion; they agreed to join the effort but only passing the motion by 5 votes.
TurlockCityNews.com Note of Acknowledgement and Appreciation for Contributing:
City of Turlock employees have contributed a great deal to the community in years past, even during this economically challenging last year. Turlock Firefighters Local 2434 stepped up when the Turlock Christmas Parade didn’t have a sponsor and contributed $5,000. Municipal Services employees were very involved in the year long Turlock Centennial Celebration as they contributed thousands of dollars and volunteer time on Centennial projects. City of Turlock employees raised a much needed $14,000 this year for the Turlock Charity Shopping Tour when the demand to help children get clothes during Christmas time was greater than ever before. Many of the approximate 375 full-time employees contribute to the community in many ways individually, and without notice or acknowledgement.