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Contract talks hold up final city budget
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Manteca won’t have a new budget in place for the fiscal year that started 24 days ago until negotiations are finished with several municipal employee groups.

As a general law city under the California Constitution, Manteca is able to keep operating with a continuing budget resolution. The council took that step earlier this month. The target is to have a budget in place before Oct. 1.

The Manteca Police Officers Association, Manteca Firefighters Association, and the upper management all made concessions and reached an agreement in terms of salary and benefit concessions to avoid layoffs.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton has indicated concessions that groups finally agree to make will determine if more layoffs are needed.

Layoffs that took place at the first of July included:

•three police department jobs. No police officers lost their jobs. Instead, three support personnel departed July 1.

•three public works positions.

•two Community Development Department workers.

•two administrative assistants.

Pinkerton said there is also a possibility if specific employee groups make enough concession that some of the personnel that have been layed off could be rehired.

Each employee group was given a dollar amount as their percentage share of cuts that were needed to eliminate the city’s structured deficit.

Essentially the structured deficit involves spending more money than the city takes in during a given year. And with about 85 cents of every dollar spent in the distressed general fund going to salary and benefits, the only real cuts left are in compensation or personnel.

Manteca has spent down its reserves and discretional funds such a bonus bucks paid for sewer allocation certainty by developers to balance previous budgets.

It is why the city has said it needs the concessions or else there needs to be layoffs.

Manteca in the last four years had reduced its workforce from 432 to 340 while the population has climbed 5,000. Of those 340 positions, 140 of them are covered by the stressed general fund that has been hit hard by drops in property and sales taxes. The remaining 200 workers are in enterprise operations such as sewer water, and garbage services that are financed by users’ fees or are paid through special funds such as the redevelopment agency.

The previous reductions were attained through attrition, retirements, and layoffs.

The employee groups still have a contract in effect through Dec. 31. The firefighters - who agreed to concessions in a side letter of understanding - also have a contract in effect through the end of the year.

The MPOA negotiated a new four-year contract ahead of schedule.

Police officers were paying little or none of their salary into PERS. Starting this month they are paying 18 percent of their gross monthly pay into PERS. It represents a net savings of more than $6 million over the four-year contract. It reflects a net loss of 22 percent in salary and 21 percent in total compensation.

All negotiations were designed to address the structured deficit created by shortfalls in pension contributions. The city’s goal is to eliminate the structured deficit in the current negotiations.

That would wipe out not just the $4.2 million deficit that had been projected for this year but future anticipated deficits in the next three fiscal years.

The Manteca Firefighters Association made compensation concessions including increasing their contribution to the Public Employment Retirement System (PERS) by 14 percent to 23 percent. That - coupled with agreeing to leave three positions vacant when three firefighters retire saved the jobs of six firefighters.

Upper management took the same percentage reductions in their compensation as the rank-and-file has over the past three years.

Prior to last month, all city employees except for sworn police officers had taken an average of 10 percent reductions in compensation over the past three years excluding the forgoing of pre-negotiated pay raises. Police officers actually saw an increase in compensation as they opted to hold fast to their contract and take pre-negotiated pay raises which in turn prompted the city to lay off 12 police officers in 2010. Their new contract puts their percentage of compensation loss at a higher level than most other employee groups.