Lifeguard contract drafted

Daily Pilot

The Newport Beach Lifeguard Management Assn. and city representatives have agreed to contract revisions that would increase the guards' contributions to their pension plans, city officials said.

The City Council plans to vote on the new contract Tuesday night.

A 3.5% contribution toward retirement made through a pre-tax payroll deduction plan will affect permanent city lifeguard staff represented by the union and would be effective through Dec. 31, 2011, if adopted.

"We have a pretty strong relationship with the City Council. We believe and trust what they say to us" association President Brent Jacobsen said. "When they asked us to help, we knew that it was necessary."

In the past, the city carried the total cost sent to the California Public Employees' Retirement System, known as CalPERS, but is gradually moving toward a point where all city employees must cover the required member contribution, which is 9% for safety employees and 7% for non-safety employees, City Manager Dave Kiff said.

"When times were fat and happy, in order to recruit the best employees possible, we paid their share," Kiff said.

In September, Newport Beach reported an $8-million deficit.

However, through various reductions in spending and adjustments to retirement plans, the city has reduced the deficit to $1 million, he said.

The 3.5% diverted from lifeguard salaries, effective from Feb. 27, is expected to contribute $90,000 of the average $6 million the city pays annually to CalPERS.

City firefighters are already paying 3.5% member contributions and other non-safety employees are paying 3.2%, Kiff said.

"I really have to give [the association] credit, they really stepped forward to say that they can help," Kiff said. "And this is an important way to address the city's budget problem."

Also included in the new contract under the association's proposed memorandum of understanding is an increase in tuition reimbursement for education programs. Salaries and staffing are expected to remain unchanged.

"The [tuition reimbursement] could be very beneficial," Jacobsen said. "While many of us have our degrees, or advanced degrees, I always try to encourage all of our younger members to take advantage of it and get the education."

The meeting begins 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 3300 Newport Blvd.

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