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City Dilemma - Lack Of Union Concessions Creates Budget Uncertainty

POSTED July 10, 2013 12:24 a.m.

Just two weeks after Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer pushed through a proposed budget cutting $540,000 from the city’s general fund, Oakdale city officials are hitting a snag that may reduce that cost savings.

According to information from those within the city, the police bargaining unit has not accepted paying the proposed 5 percent retirement payment concession that was included in Whitemyer’s figures for the 2013-2014 city budget.

The result is that the city’s firefighter union is also reconsidering the concession.

In June, Whitemyer had hoped to cut $165,000 from the budget by having all employees pay their 5 percent retirement contribution to PERS.

Since the contribution is a negotiated bargaining item, affected employees have to agree to the deduction and can’t have the matter imposed on them.

Oakdale Police Officers Association President Brian Shimmel confirmed the concession was not accepted by the membership but said he would not comment on negotiations or a counter offer by the union.

Oakdale Firefighters Association President Dave Peterson said his group’s concession to the retirement contribution was contingent upon the other city unions accepting it also.

In the past few weeks city officials have scheduled a variety of closed session meetings with the city council to discuss contract negotiations.

“It will have an effect (on the budget) if it’s not accepted,” said Whitemyer. “We’re now meeting with city bargaining units. It’s too early to determine how much.”

The police department was affected by other budget cuts with the freezing of two open positions. The fire department had also been subject to cuts, but those were restored when Whitemyer presented the final budget.

Earlier this year, The Leader reported that Oakdale police officers were the lowest paid in Stanislaus County and had not received any sort of a pay raise in five years. Additionally, the city adopted a lower retirement formula for new employees last year in an effort to save money, making recruitment of qualified seasoned officers from other agencies nearly impossible.

Whitemyer said that he scheduled mid-year reviews to combat any changes that may occur in the budget.

“The city will revisit the budget in September and analyze any impact at that time,” Whitemyer said. “I’m still hopeful with the city’s negotiation process.”

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