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Irvine approves new contract for police, city workers

The Irvine City Council approved Tuesday a two-year contract for city employees, including its Police Department, that will cost $1.1 million more than planned during the first year.

The mostly amicable negotiations with unions that represent the police rank and file, city administrators and three other worker groups netted most employees a 4% salary hike in each of the next two years taking effect immediately.

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"Obviously the bargaining groups are always looking for as much as they can possibly get. I would expect that and I respect that," said Councilwoman Beth Krom. "In the end, I think they got a very good package."

The two-year agreement, yet to be formally ratified, will cost the city a little more than $4.8 million in the first year and escalates to just under $5.1 million in the second. Approval passed by a 3-1 vote at Tuesday's regular meeting with Councilwoman Lynn Schott dissenting and Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway absent.

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Schott cited the overall budget implications and $1.1 million in excess of the planned contract cost for this year as reasons for not supporting the resolution. She explained the city budgeted for 3% salary increases for top-tier employees. The more than a million dollars in cost overrun will come out of a budget surplus from fiscal year 2014-15.

"The negotiations quickly went beyond that range. So I simply felt uncomfortable," Schott said. Moreover, she said she felt the impact on city pension funding needed closer scrutiny.

"It seems like we're trying to get out of a pension deficit hole and then increasing salaries above and beyond our target was for this year," Schott explained. "I felt we were sending two separate signals — trying to get out of that pension hole but then increasing salaries and increasing our pension liability."

Other council members noted the police association and other unions were accommodating in past negotiations during more difficult times.

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"People did participate in a respectful way during the economic downturn," Krom said, "so this gives us a chance to bring them back to a place that's a little bit better."

Sgt. Steve Wolf, president of the 185-member Irvine Police Assn., addressed the council and reinforced the union's commitment during the meeting.

"With this investment in our employees, we all succeed and grow together and we make a stronger police force and certainly a stronger city," Wolf said.

"It's been a little bit of ups and downs, which always happens in negotiations," Councilwoman Christine Shea added, "but I'm pleased we've come to a conclusion that's positive for everyone."

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