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Costa Mesa council to focus on city employees contract, changes to committees

A new contract for municipal employees and a host of changes related to city committees are among the items on tap for next week’s Costa Mesa City Council meeting.

The union contract up for review Tuesday would provide higher pay for the 236 members of the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn., while also lowering the amount those workers pay toward their pensions.

As proposed, the agreement would run through June 30, 2020. It stipulates steady pay increases for CMCEA members — 2.5% in each of the first two years of the deal and 2.75% in the third and fourth years.

The contract would also decrease the amount those employees pay toward their pensions from the current 17.04% to 12% by year three.


During a Feb. 21 public hearing on the tentative agreement with the union, some said the proposed changes would make the city more competitive when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees.

Costa Mesa employees generally have lower salaries compared with surrounding cities, Assistant City Manager Tammy Letourneau said during last month’s hearing.

The city has about 90 vacant positions, she said at the time, and recruitment and retention “has been a challenge for the last few years.”

One proposed change that would aid in those efforts, Letourneau said, is striking a provision included in CMCEA’s previous contract that required union members to pay 60% of any increases in the city’s mandated contributions to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.


The union’s previous contract expired in June.

Others, though, have questioned how or whether the contract could affect the city’s pension debt, which stood at about $246 million in 2015.

“We can say, ‘Yes, we need to offer good benefits to be competitive with other cities’ ... but it doesn’t change the fact this is going to add to our pension burden considerably,” Councilman Allan Mansoor said last month.

A city staff report in Tuesday’s agenda, however, states the agreement “would not impact the city’s unfunded pension liability as the recommended salary increases are within the CalPERS assumptions regarding future payroll increases.”

The California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act also stipulates that, starting in 2018; cities can’t require nonpublic safety employees to contribute more than 8% of their pay toward their pensions.

In ratifying the tentative agreement, CMCEA members have agreed to pitch in at a higher rate than that.

The proposed contract is expected to cost taxpayers $5.65 million more over the life of the agreement than the previous one.



Committee changes

Council members will also weigh a series of possible changes related to city committees — generally advisory panels that provide input on specific topics.

Proposals before the council include creating a new Military Affairs Committee, which would explore ways for the city to support and honor veterans and their families and collaborate with other groups to develop strategies to address veteran homelessness.

It’s proposed that the committee would have seven members — three serving for two years and four appointed for four-year terms. The committee would meet the last Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

Costa Mesa already has a Military Affairs Team, but council members voted Feb. 7 to make it a formal committee.

During that same meeting, the council decided to merge the city’s finance advisory and pension oversight committees into one panel: the Finance & Pension Advisory Committee.

The unified committee is proposed to have 11 members — six serving two-year terms and five on one-year terms.

Four of those “shall have pension knowledge,” according to the council agenda, and one would be the mayor’s designee.


Other members would be “residents or individuals that conduct business within the city and have a background that includes experience in securities trading, financial planning, banking, auditing, accounting, or a closely related and relevant field.”

Council members will also consider approving new membership qualifications for the city’s Access Building, Fire and Housing Board of Appeal, which handles appeals of decisions made by city building officials or the fire marshal.

Should the council approve the changes the City Clerk’s office would open the committees for applications.

Appointments to the panels are tentatively scheduled for the council’s April 4 meeting.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

Twitter: @LukeMMoney