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Making sense of council's compensation

By: Linda Stackpoole, Special to The News Messenger
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Many residents have asked about the compensation and benefits our employees receive and how they came to be and who and when they were approved. The following column is my attempt to provide you with that information. Before becoming a City Council member, I was a city of Lincoln employee for over 22 years and represented the mid-management/confidential group at the negotiation table in 2005. The city was the fastest growing city in the United States and times were good. Prior to negotiations, the city had completed a salary survey of seven surrounding jurisdictions. This salary survey information was used by the city to negotiate salaries and to implement freezes and/or increases, as applicable. Those 2005 salary ranges are the employees’ current ranges and the contract that employee groups work under today. Out of those negotiations came a five-year contract. Cost-of-living increases were negotiated and agreed upon for a five-year period so that the city would be in a better position to plan ahead through the budget process. This request was made from the city’s side of the negotiations. Merit increases were never negotiated as guaranteed increases. Merit increases are earned by employees who meet job performance requirements on an annual basis and are not at the top step of their salary range. An additional step was added during the 2005 negotiations, the ”G” step, which provides an opportunity for an employee that has been at the top step (the “F” step) for three years and receives a performance rating of “exceeds” or better, in other words, is performing above standard, to receive one last increase. The completion of negotiations led to the execution of a mutually-agreed-upon memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and the various city employee groups. Medical benefits paid 100 percent by the city of Lincoln first became available in 1986. A decision made by the Lincoln City Council. During the 2005 negotiations, the city limited the plan choices available with language to the MOU’s that provided for the city to cover the cost of the least expensive available plan and if employees wanted a more expensive plan, then the employees were responsible for paying the difference. This was done to try and limit some of the cost. An amendment to the California Public Employees Retirement System contract to provide for a 2.7 percent at 55-retirement formula from 2 percent at 55-retirement formula was negotiated. The cost for this retirement amendment has been and is paid for by miscellaneous employees since the 2005 amendment. The city has been contracting with the Public Employees’ Retirement System since the ’70s for retirement benefits. During good economic times, the city was superfunded by the Public Employees’ Retirement System’s successful investments which enabled the city’s retirement contributions to come out of the superfund profits which covered the retirement contributions for a number of years. As economic times have changed, cities are no longer superfunded and cities have been paying for those pension costs. I began serving on the City Council in 2006. Last year, as a council member, I spoke to employees asking them to step up and do the right thing to help save jobs. They opened up their contracts and I thank and appreciate all the reductions and concessions they have made. All employees, including management employees, have taken concessions in amounts from 16 to 18 percent, which equals reduced take-home pay. Employees are also paying their portion of the retirement benefit. Today, times are not so good across the nation, salaries have to be lowered and more employee participation in benefit costs must occur. During the next four years, the city’s memorandum of understandings with our entire employee groups come up for renegotiation and Lincoln, like all cities, will be asking employees for salary reductions and more participation in benefit costs. The City Council has encouraged management staff to lead by example and take salary reductions now. Linda Stackpoole is on City Council.