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Pension, pay cuts for Healdsburg police department


Healdsburg police employees have a new labor contract that will require them to pay more toward their pension and medical benefits.

The City Council late Monday adopted the new two-year union contract that which will require all employees to pay 10 percent of the cost of their medical coverage by 2014, in contrast to the last agreement where the city covered the full cost.

And new employees will get less generous pension benefits. Instead of being eligible to retire at age 50 with three percent of their salary for every year of service, sworn officers will be eligible for two percent beginning at 50 years old. That’s a one-third reduction in their pension.

“The employees stepped up and realized things can’t remain the way they were; it’s not sustainable,” said Mayor Gary Plass.

Police employees who are not officers will be eligible to retire at 60, with two percent salary per year, compared to the previous formula of 2.5 percent at age 55.

City utility electrical workers also agreed to a revised contract with a similar retirement formula for new employees of “two percent at 60.”

“They’ve given us concessions. Things they’ve had, we’ve taken away,” Plass said.

Police department employees also will have to pay the full employee contribution toward their pension, or nine percent of their salary, rather than the former eight percent contribution.

“We’re trying to do what we can to help the city out,” said Sgt. Luis Rodriguez, head of the 21-member Police Officers Association.

Plass, a retired Healdsburg Police sergeant, said the city will likely be looking for even more concessions in future contracts.

The city has had to rely on cash reserves to balance its budget, but finance officials project those could be exhausted in a few years if expenditures aren’t reined in.

“We’ve got a long ways to go,” Plass said. “Pension reform and medical reform will take some time.”

Some police employees will accrue vacation time sooner under the new contract, but “we didn’t get back anything monetarily,“ Rodriguez said. “It’s pretty much all of us (employees) giving.”

The number of sworn officers has been reduced the past three years from a high of 18 to 15 now. But the city agreed to no additional police layoffs while the contract is in effect.

Since 2008 there have been no cost-of-living increases for police and most other city employees, Plass said.

Under the new contract, rookie patrol officers will start at five percent less than before, or $61,008 a year.

Top-tier patrol officers still will receive $75,000 annually.

The City Council has received criticism that the pension scheme for new police officers is overly stingy, compared to reforms in other jurisdictions.

The concern is that it will lead to Healdsburg becoming a “training ground,” where officers quickly move on.

“That is an issue we will have to watch and see how it works,” Plass said.

9 Responses to “Pension, pay cuts for Healdsburg police department”

  1. Snarky says:


    To clarify, I never stated that local “lifeguards” were covered by the “public safety” pension system.

    I had pointed out that in other government localities, lifeguards were covered.

    My point was the the Press Demo could, if it wanted, publish the full list of local job categories covered by the “public safety” pension umbrella.

    As I stated, the “public safety” job categories are NOT merely cops and firemen. There are other job categories that the local government keeps quiet about.

    You also noticed that one fellow claimed I as wrong… yet went silent when I said “prove me wrong.” :) Too funny.

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  2. Accountable says:

    @Robert-which counties did these Correctional Deputies go to? When you make vague statements, it gives the appearance of an urban myth.

    I researched the Total Cost of Employment of the position (base,OT,benefits,employer pension contribution,etc.) in the Greater Bay Area and Sonoma pays exceptionally well for its size and cost of living: Contra Costa-$253,931, Marin-$235,940, Alameda-$228,207, Sonoma-$205,671, Santa Clara-$164,583, Solano-$147,979, Napa-$112,619.

    As an Efficiency Expert, who consults for a variety of organizations, I can tell you that high pay/benefits doesn’t equal job satisfaction. If Corrections has high turnover, I would look first at how competent the leadership is.

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  3. Robert says:

    Ask Sonoma County about the $1,000,000 deputy in the jail. They spent $1,000,000 hiring and traing deputies for the jail for 2 years straight to fill vacancies. At the endof 2 years and a million bucks, they had one more than when they started. If you are not near the top, people WILL move on to greener pastures. Who wouldn’t?

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  4. David Stubblebine says:

    I guess this was not as readily apparent as I thought; this is “My Bad.” The lifeguards covered under safety retirements, the “rescue workers,” are the full-time lifeguards who work the beaches and parks. Mostly this is seen in Southern California and in many respects they are the de facto Beach Police. The seasonal lifeguards hired each summer to staff the pools in Sonoma County are generally part-time hourly employees with few benefits and certainly without safety retirements.

    Many associations or few associations changes little at the bargaining table. Because the duties between lobs are different, each classification is negotiated semi-separately from the others to craft (presumably) commensurate differences in the compensations. In theory, splitting jobs among several associations offers better representation since the labor leaders should know their members’ situations better. From the employer’s perspective, having only a few associations may make scheduling the bargaining meetings easier, but negotiating each job class by class works out about the same.

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  5. Accountable says:

    According to Healdsburg website, lifeguards are Non-Represented rather than covered by HPOA. So, they are not technically considered “rescue workers” http://www.ci.healdsburg.ca.us/index.aspx?page=261.

    SCLEA covers part of the Sheriff’s Office, Probation, Park Rangers, Fire Inspectors, D.A. Investigators, Welfare Fraud Investigators and Residential Care Counselors http://sclea.org/ (scroll to the bottom page). Pensions range from 3% @ 50, 3% @ 55, to 3% @ 60.

    It is unclear to me why the Sheriff’s Office needs numerous associations representing staff members, with benefits all over the board. It certainly gives the appearance of multiple layers of bureaucracy. And, our tax dollars are used, in the form of employee salaries, to negotiate separately with multiple associations.

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  6. David Stubblebine says:

    @Snarky: Why don’t you just post that list? With less effort than it took to keep asking the PD to publish it, you could have done it yourself.

    Since no one has bitten on your hook, I am beginning to wonder if there even is the “list” you keep alluding to. The only example I have seen you post (and I know I have not seen all your posts) is lifeguards. First off, lifeguards are rescue workers and are absolutely safety employees so I did not grasp your point. Secondly, I do not think lifeguard pensions are a threat to Healdsburg’s budget.

    Put up or shut up.

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  7. Snarky says:

    When will the PRESS DEMO publish the full list of job categories that fall under the cozy “public safety” pension scam ?

    Its not just police.

    Its not just firemen.

    There are other job categories that get that juicy public pension system yet the Press Demo just isn’t interested.

    Wonder why?

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  8. GAJ says:

    Ha ha ha.

    Thumbs down for applauding Healdsburg’s reform efforts.

    Now wonder we’re in this mess that will still take 30 years to unravel completely…assuming we do something NOW!

    Obviously it means younger generations won’t benefit like the unbelievably greedy and unethical Baby Boom generation, (that goes for how Baby Boom CEO’s and top executives have shown their unmitigated greed), of which I am a part.

    My generation will be vilified by future generations…and deservedly so.

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  9. GAJ says:

    Seems like a very sensible plan.

    If other municipalities don’t do something almost identical they are cowards.

    3% vesting was the straw that broke the camel’s back…at least Healdsburg, unlike the Sonoma County BOS, is smart enough to realize this.

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