City to save $1.27 million this year

Labor groups agree to concessions
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Contracts for five of the city’s six labor groups were approved by City Council Tuesday night, with Councilman Gabriel Hydrick the lone councilmember to vote no. Council voted four to one to enter into new labor contracts with the Lincoln Police Officers’ Association, Lincoln Professional Firefighters’ Association, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 39 Classified and Professional Administrative groups and the Mid-Management/Confidential Groups. “It shows that the employees here certainly understand the necessity of the changes and have done so in a number of ways,” Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep said. “The City Council had asked that we attain certain goals. We have met all of those, and they will take affect within the term of the contracts.” The contracts for both public safety groups are effective from July 1 of this year through Sept. 20, 2014. Contracts for the three remaining groups are effective from July 1 through June 30, 2015. According to information given in the agenda item for the labor contracts, the total known savings for current employees in the first year is $1.27 million. The sixth labor group, the Lincoln Police and Fire Mid-Management/Supervisory Bargaining Unit, had their contract approved on May 22. Lining the back of the room during the council’s discussion over the contracts were five firefighters, eight police officers and a handful of public services employees. Larry Menth, the city’s chief negotiator, explained the contract changes to council. “I can report to you the even willingness that faced us by the collective bargaining groups to acknowledge the issue and I believe the city is better of today than before my arrival with the groups,” Menth said. “Highlights” of contract changes listed by Menth include employees paying 20 percent of their healthcare costs; elimination of state disability insurance repayment at the end of each year and elimination of additional money paid for levels of employee education such as associates and bachelor degrees. Vacation cash-out has also been eliminated, according to Menth, and overtime pay for firefighters will reduce from 2.1 percent of their pay to 1.5 percent. “The professional administrative group and mid-management group agreed to a unique set of circumstances. While they will receive a 5 percent merit increase in the future of their MOU (memorandum of understanding), they also agreed to a furlough program equal to 4.26 percent of their salary,” Menth said. “The classified bargaining unit, in the latter part of their bargaining, said we will forego two specific floating holidays. Understanding this is still base wage, the city has two more days of work with employees.” Prior to council discussion, Lincoln resident Richard MacKirdy addressed City Council about the proposed contracts. “This evening, I stand in support of the tax payers of Lincoln. The bottom-line questions are where are we going to get the money to pay for the pay increases and why are we not paying the minimum possible for healthcare?” MacKirdy said. “Since it seems I am the only one that read the FSC (fiscal sustainability committee) compensation reports, I am simply trying to give the figures a public airing before the City Council sends the city down another one-way street.” MacKirdy said he had “a compliment,” which was “some of the negotiations are wonderful in curbing costs for the city.” “At some point, the city needs to start saying no to the ever increasing compensation negotiated by the bargaining units and unions,” MacKirdy said. Estep responded to MacKirdy’s comments, first by saying “the statements you made are fairly accurate in a number of ways” in response to numbers provided by MacKirdy to the city clerk. “However, I think what needs to be recognized is the collective bargaining process,” Estep said. “If we go strictly by the numbers with ways to save money, we wouldn’t have any employees because no one could afford to work here. There are human considerations that have to go into this and played a huge role in the negotiating process.” Lincoln Mayor Spencer Short also responded to MacKirdy’s comments by saying that “if we fall off of a financial cliff, these (contracts) allow us reopeners for every contract should something happen, should things go good or better.” After Tuesday’s meeting, Hydrick said “one thing that stuck out from Rich’s comments was about the taxpayers.” “Lincoln has a habit of living above our means. I campaigned that I would do my best to make sure we live within our means and I put myself in the uncomfortable position of making that decision,” Hydrick said. During the meeting, Hydrick said he would exercise his “afforded luxury” to vote no on the contracts because he was “anticipating that these MOU’s will pass.” “The process has been good, with the bargaining groups on both sides of the table. I think the city has done an outstanding job in very difficult and confined parameters to work within,” Hydrick said. “I’m bothered by a couple of things, one is the furlough days and the pay increases. I think it’s going to look terrible to taxpayers. I see cost increases going to employees when I don’t know how many of these 43,000 (residents) are getting a pay increase at this time.” The remaining four councilmen had positive comments regarding the contracts. “I want to compliment each of the bargaining groups for bargaining in good faith,” Councilman Stan Nader said. “I’m confident if the need arises for additional concessions they will be willing to sit down and talk with us if that need be the case.” Nader said it was “difficult to put an exact number on the savings” but that it was “safe to say the savings is substantial, not as much as in the first year (but) in the second and third years.” Councilman Tom Cosgrove thanked the bargaining units and also Estep, the city’s human resources analyst Sheila Van Zandt and the city’s public services director Mark Miller. “Stan had mentioned something a couple of budgets ago that we were an airplane headed into the ground and it looked like we would crash,” Cosgrove said. “We’ve avoided (that). We’re not out of the woods yet, we have challenges in front of us we will have to face and we will meet those challenges and be a healthy city.” Joiner said Cosgrove’s comments “hit the nail on the head” and “thanks everybody involved in the process.” “I want to just take time to give a thank-you to all of our groups, all of the folks at the bargaining table, both on the employee side and our side,” Short said. “I know it was not an easy task.” In other city news, a resolution authorizing the city manager to “execute the design and environmental review agreement with Placer County” totaling $6.07 million for the regional sewer project was approved by council. The project entails building a pipeline from North Auburn and pumping that sewage to Lincoln’s wastewater treatment plant, according to previous News Messenger reports. City of Lincoln engineer Bruce Burnworth presented the resolution and said approval of the design and environmental review agreement “brings the regional sewer project one step closer to approval and is further progress toward obtaining reimbursement for previous city of Lincoln expenditures to oversize parts of the Lincoln Wastewater Treatment and Reclamation Facility and major sewer trunk lines through Lincoln.” Savings from contract changes for current employees during first year of contracts Lincoln Police Officers’ Association: $247,759 Lincoln Professional Firefighters’ Association: $247,199 Local 39 Professional Administrative Group: $308,078 Local 39 Classified Group: $319,601 Mid-Management/Confidential Group: $155,267 Source: Aug. 14 City Council Agenda Packet, Item 8.1A