The Antioch City Council made the right decision when it decided against a proposal by Councilman Gary Agopian, on behalf of the Citizens for a Safe Antioch, not to place a parcel tax for additional police department funding on the November ballot. One wonders, however, if the council would have made the same decision if there weren’t three open seats for City Council, including the mayor’s seat, or if they’re just holding out hope for the legislature to lower the threshold for public-safety taxes from a two-thirds approval to 55 percent approval.
The police department is currently operating with 34 fewer sworn officers than authorized. However, the city is planning to hire back five officers to fill positions lost through attrition and five more with $1.5 million dollars in federal grant money. (This month the chief informed the council he’s currently in the process of adding two additional cops, expanding the reserve officer program, replacing two recently retired K-9s and adding one additional K-9.)
Regrettably, the city laid off all its non-sworn community service officers (CSOs) in 2009. Hiring back a number of CSOs, who make considerably less than sworn police officers, would free up more officers to get back on the street. (The cost of funding the base salary and benefits of a police officer at Step C is approximately $132,000 per year, the cost of a CSO at Step 3 is approximately $84,000 per year. (The city recently tried to hire three people, but each one declined.)
In recent contract negotiations, APOA agreed to give up raises that had been deferred since 2009 and begin contributing 9 percent of salary, instead of 3 percent, to PERS retirement in return for an immediate 6-percent wage increase.
The deal included a 3-percent salary increase in 2013, a 4-percent hike in September of 2013 and acceptance of a two-tiered system in which new hires can retire at age 55 with 3 percent of the average of their top three years of annual pay multiplied by years of service versus the current 3-percent of their highest pay at age 50 multiplied by years of service. (I fail to comprehend, however, why the council gifted them with two additional paid holidays!)
Interesting to note, a recent staff report to the council from Human Resources stated that, as per the city’s recently approved Memorandum of Understanding with APOA, effective Sept. 1, 2012, the city will report the employee-paid member contribution to PERS as special compensation to the employee’s salary. Could it be that the intent to treat the contribution as a salary addition is to jack up their pensions when they retire?