According to City Manager Jim Jakel, Antioch’s small deficit in the fiscal year 2011-12 is projected to increase significantly in the next fiscal year. City leaders are conducting ongoing discussions with the Antioch Police Officers Association in an effort to reach a resolution on continued concessions cops have made.
In March, the two sides formally agreed on an arrangement that saved Antioch roughly $966,000 – an agreement that ends Jan. 1. The city’s contract with the police officers’ association ends in August of 2013.
“We continue to work together, and hopefully we’ll be able to come up with an agreement going forward,” Jakel said. “Both of us are committed to trying to make something work.”
Jakel could not get into the specifics of the current round of negotiations, as meetings are being held in closed session. Antioch Police Officers Association President Sgt. Tom Fuhrmann also agreed that talks are going well. Fuhrmann noted that while officers understand the city’s fiscal restraints, his side hopes to negotiate a deal that not only works financially for Antioch but improves officers’ quality of life.
“We know what the issues are and where the city stands and what it is they’re looking for from us,” Fuhrmann said. “We’re trying to deal with some work conditions and make it a little more tolerable for the staff.”
While Fuhrmann didn’t provide specifics, he said the vacancy rate within his department has started to take a toll on the officers. According to Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando, the city now employs 96 of an authorized staff of 126 officers. The police force is also operating without its entire Community Service Officer staff of 20, which was cut as a budgetary measure.
Sgt. Fuhrmann noted that the city’s General Plan calls for a police force of 1.2 to 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents, but now that figure has fallen to 0.96.
“We’re trying to work with (the city) and get through that as well,” Fuhrmann said.
In the current deal, which Antioch’s City Council approved on March 8, officers agreed to defer cost of living wage increases and other compensation, which worked out to a savings of $649,109. Police officers also agreed to pay 3 percent toward their pension, saving the city $317,590. In exchange, cops received an additional two paid holidays – the day after Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
Prior to that agreement, the city and the police union engaged in occasionally testy negotiations throughout the winter months. Antioch originally voted in January to lay off six officers to help keep the city afloat, but concessions and donations from Antioch Auto Center owner Tom Nokes helped the city discard those pink slips.
According to Jakel, the long negotiations from last year help now, as both sides have a greater knowledge of each others’ situation. Fuhrmann and Jakel agreed that the current situation is not as dire as last year’s.
“The groundwork has been set to some extent,” Jakel said. “Both sides have a better understanding of our positions and they understand the financial situation that we’re in. … We’re not starting at square one.”
In addition to continued concessions from various unions, the city is exploring other ways to balance its books. Jakel said Antioch isn’t in the direst of straights, as it holds $6 million in reserve, down from roughly $11 million at the start of the economic recession.
The city is trying to work closer with the Antioch Chamber of Commerce to build a healthier business base, as well as make sure things are running smoothly at the Antioch Auto Center and with local retailers during the holiday spending season. Jakel believes that cuts in Antioch’s personnel – which accounts for much of the city’s expenses – would be extremely difficult to make.
City government, Jakel noted, is operating with an employment vacancy rate of nearly 40 percent. “It’s difficult to cut much further,” he said. “We’re into the core of the operation already.”
The city and the police officers’ association continued to meet in closed session throughout the week regarding their current agreement.
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