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Fire fighters save jobs while cops wait Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Jan 08 2011 12:00 PM

The Chula Vista City Council on Monday approved a deal with the labor union representing Chula Vista firefighters that would avoid any department layoffs.

The International Association of Firefighters representatives agreed to contribute nine percent of their salary toward pension costs, establish a second tier retirement plan for new employees and give up 4.5 percent of their planned raises.

With the recent concessions, the total number of "benefited" city employees who have agreed to pension reform totals 769 out of 960.

Meanwhile, during informal talks Tuesday between Chula Vista city officials and the Chula Vista Police Officers Association, both parties agreed to a put temporary hold on laying off at least 20 officers.

The layoffs would have gone into effect today and are on hold for up to two weeks.

The decision was made to allow for additional time to work together toward a permanent solution for pension reform. At this point, the union and city have not entered into formal negotiations.

"There is still a lot that needs to fall into place to have any lasting impact," said association Director of Communications Phil Collum.

Collum said the idea is to save some, if not all, of the positions from being cut.

"It is entirely possible that nothing could change," he said. "But I am hopeful and optimistic."

According to Human Resources Director Kelley Bacon, 76 employees were scheduled to be let go Jan. 14, including police. But with Tuesday's agreement that number falls significantly..

Since 2007, this city has eliminated 259 full-time positions.

Contributions from the mayor, City Council members, top executives and four of the five labor unions will generate around $4.3 million in taxpayer savings, but city officials said it is not enough to offset the 2011-2012 fiscal year's deficit.

According to City Manager Jim Sandoval, 50 of the layoffs are directly related to the loss of revenue associated with the defeat of Prop. H, the city's telecommunications user's tax.

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said that if every employee agreed to comprehensive pension reform the city would have closed a $12.5 million budget gap for the next fiscal year.

Sandoval said that without agreements from the police union, the city is out $3.2 million.

Sandoval said city staff has presented three proposals to the Chula Vista Police Officers Association, to which they have not received a response.

Sandoval said they would consider anything they came up with.

"Regardless of what financial position the city is currently projecting, our police department staffing is so low that it should not even be on the table because it will hurt the community of Chula Vista," Collum said.

In September, the police union hired an independent financial analyst to do a 10-year audit of the city's finances.

Two weeks ago economic analyst Peter Donohue and the association held a press conference to present the findings of his study.

Donohue reported Chula Vista has access to $154 million in "unrestricted" net assets that the city could use for anything it chose, including saving police officer positions and public services.

Sandoval said the report's findings were incorrect and invalid.

Collum said the POA is waiting for the 2009-2010 financial report from the city, which is not yet available, according to city officials.

"Once we receive it, Donohue will complete his analysis," Collum said.

According to Sandoval the city's Comprehensive Annual Finance Report will be discussed at the Jan. 18 City Council meeting.

In addition to affecting employees, several public services will be affected by the cuts.

In December, city officials finalized what public facilities they will keep open with new limited staffing levels.

Several public services face cuts to hours, including the city clerk's office, finance, human resources, library, recreation and public works departments.




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