Council approves new contract for Del Mar firefighters

By Kristina Houck

Local firefighters will see salary increases while Del Mar will reduce its existing pension obligation thanks to a new agreement between the city and the Del Mar Firefighters Association.

In a unanimous vote, the Del Mar City Council on April 21 approved a new contract between the city and the association, which is effective July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2017. The previous three-year collective bargaining agreement between the city and the association expired on June 30, 2013.

“There are some good benefits here that I think will be good for our employees, but also good for the city in the long-term,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott. “I appreciate the work that’s been done here.”

After a series of meetings between representatives from the city and the association, both sides came to a four-year agreement, which includes a 1.5 percent base salary increase for the city’s firefighters, retroactive to January 2014. The city last approved a 2 percent cost of living increase for association employees in 2009.

In addition, the association agreed to transfer fire personnel to the city’s 12-step merit program instead of the existing five-step salary schedule. A 12-step salary schedule allows smaller increments, enabling the city to save money over time. Each step salary increase is now limited to 2.5 percent instead of 5 percent.

In response to no additional base salary adjustments and for switching to the 12-step merit program, the city will provide a one-time stipend equivalent to 2 percent of base salary for existing association employees on July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016.

To reduce the city’s existing pension obligation, the association also agreed to take on more pension cost responsibility. The association agreed to pick up an additional 3 percent of pension costs, resulting in association employees contributing 12 percent toward their pension by July 2016.

Employees will begin picking up 10 percent of their retirement costs starting July 1, 2014, 11 percent in July 2015, and 12 percent in July 2016.

Del Mar will offset these additional costs to existing employees by contributing a matching salary percentage into a 401a or 457 deferred compensation plan. The city will contribute 1 percent in July 2014, 2 percent in July 2015 and 3 percent in July 2016.

Lastly, the city will continue to pay 75 percent of the increases in premium costs for medical and dental plans while employees pay the remaining 25 percent.

Del Mar City Manager Scott Huth noted the four-year contract would cost the city roughly $102,000 but save the city much more over the next 10, 20 and 30 years.

“I appreciate the work that went into reaching this agreement,” said Councilman Don Mosier. “We certainly value our firefighters; they’re a very professional crew.

“This may turn out to be a model for other firefighters in the county when they renegotiate their contracts. I appreciate the fact that Del Mar has taken a leadership position in trying to reach a fair and equitable agreement with employees that benefits both employees and the city long-term.”

   
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