SEBA Pact Milestone For Devereaux

(September 28) San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux on September 25 nailed down a key plank in the fiscal reform platform he has been charged with effecting to reverse the “institutional deficit” the county is projected to face by the middle of this decade.
At its meeting on Tuesday, the board of supervisors approved a four-year contract with the Safety Employees Benefit Association (SEBA), the union representing sheriff’s deputies and district attorney’s office investigators.
The terms of that contract, worked out between Devereaux and the union’s president, Laren Leichliter, included a curtailment of benefits previously enjoyed by the union’s members. The union accepted, and supervisors on Tuesday ratified, having the officers pay into their own retirement plans a sum equal to 4.72 percent of their yearly pay, which until now was being defrayed by the county; reducing previously granted 5 percent raises to promoted employees to 2.5 percent; giving back one percent of what the county pays into their medical retirement trusts; a reduction from 100 hours to 50 hours the compensation time union members can cash out annually; no cost-of-living salary increases; reducing the salary for entry level deputies by five percent;  and having all new hired union employees accept a retirement plan that grants them the right to retire at the age of 50 and receive two percent of their highest yearly salary times the number of years they have worked with the county. The acceptance of the latter provision will create two classes of employees, since current union members are eligible to retire at 50 and receive three percent of their highest salary times the number of years they have worked with the county.   The county will register an immediate $5.3 million per year savings as a consequence of the contract, a significant step toward closing a $33.2 million budget gap that Devereaux has identified.
Simultaneously, Devereaux is continuing to seek concessions and/or contract terms with other county employee unions to ensure that what was previously foreseen as a “locked-in” annual deficit by 2016 can be avoided. Had the terms of the contracts with county employee unions signed in recent years  been perpetuated across the board, those contractual commitments with regard to salary and benefits would have resulted in the county expending  $130 million more annually to operate county government than it woud take in per year in revenues. Devereaux is seeking to negotiate with the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, which is the largest bargaining unit representing county employees, modest pension and medical benefit  reductions for current employees and more substantial reductions for employees to be hired in the future. He is also in discussions with the unions representing county nurses, attorneys and probation officers.
Devereaux committed to press as hard in wringing concessions from those unions as well as the one representing emergency service employees, saying that if those units “do not agree to reduce or eliminate the items of compensation or benefits [conceded by the sheriff’s deputies and district attorney’s investigators], then those items of compensation and benefits shall be restored retroactively to members of the safety unit.”
A major consideration in the effort to rein in county costs consists of skyrocketing pension commitments, as life expectancies lengthen and the sheer numbers of county retirees increase. In this respect, the concession obtained from the Safety Employees Benefit Association with respect to reducing the retirement benefits of future hires was seen as a major breakthrough and accomplishment, and a feather in Devereaux’s cap.
Nevertheless, others made a more sober assessment of the accomplishment, pointing out that the impact from that reform will not manifest for at least two decades.

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