City still at impasse with OPD officers
OCEANSIDE — The agreement reached between the city of Oceanside and the Police Management Association looks like an even give and take at first glance, but Lt. Adam Knowland said in the long run it’s a loss for police management.
The two-year agreement includes eliminating the reporting of employee paid contributions to CalPERS as special compensation at a city savings of $81,250 annually.
Other city cost saving benefits are a cap on city paid costs of healthcare, no salary increases, an insurance contributions cap, and a lower amount paid on tuition reimbursement.
The agreement also requires police management staff to continue to pay 50 percent of normal retirement costs to CalPERS.
Two big savings for the city are not reporting employee paid CalPERS contributions as special contributions, and the cap on city paid healthcare costs that historically rises 8 to 10 percent a year.
The cap on paid healthcare puts the burden of increasing medical costs on police management staff. Knowland said this is a loss management staff will start to feel next year.
Councilman Gary Felien said it is important for Oceanside to recognize that pension and medical costs will continue to multiply unless employees take on more of the costs.
“To ignore that mathematical reality in any department is foolhardy,” Felien said. “As long as I’m up here that will never be the Oceanside model.”
The agreement also includes a yearly $4,000 taxable nonpension stipend, allowable accruement of 300 vacation hours, and allowable taxable nonpension cashout of 80 vacation hours, which benefit police management.
Knowland said the ability to cashout on accumulated vacation leave is an incentive to management staff that doesn’t have the time to use full vacation hours due to short staffing.
The department is currently short two management positions and nine officers.
Staff shortage puts more demands on those on the force. Lieutenants and chiefs are required to take on multiple leadership positions, which are each demanding enough to be a sole responsibility, and are hired as such on other police forces.
Knowland said Felien’s statement on not granting raises because of current pay is misleading.
Felien said, “How can you be more of number one than number one?”
Knowland said Oceanside police management straight pay is the highest in the region, but when salaries and benefits are added up, Oceanside’s compensation package stands in the middle region-wide.
Knowland added the MOU in total is an improvement over the previous agreement that expired Dec. 31, 2013.
“We got the best deal we could come up with,” he said.
The city is still at an impasse in negations with the Oceanside Police Officer’s Association. The police officers association has requested a final meeting with the city, but a date has not been set as of Jan. 22.
The impasse caused Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez to abstain from the 2-3-0 (abstain-yes-no) vote to approve the police management agreement Jan. 22.
“I’m uncomfortable here not coming forward with a contract for police officers,” Sanchez said. “These guys get up every day and know they’re going to face danger.”
“In eight years we lost two officers.”
Sanchez added that she appreciates staff’s work to reach an agreement with police management.
She also credited the police department for making the city safer and in turn improving the city’s economy.
Wood said the city needs to be frugal, but also needs to bargain in good faith and keep public safety its priority.
“It’s called good faith bargaining and I’m not sure we do that all the time,” Wood said.
“Oceanside’s exchange really falls on the shoulders of public safety.”