Watchdog: Council considers new tax to fund police

By Barbara Zivica

On December 27th the newly sworn in City Council adopted an Urgency Ordinance amending the September 1, 2012 contract agreement with police officers and misc. employees in which the retirement benefit formulas for new hires was changed from 3% at age 50 for police to 3% at age 55 and the retirement benefit formula for misc. employees was changed from 2.7% at age 55 to 2% at age 62. Basically, what they did was restore the more generous pension benefits for new hires.

The reason it was called an “urgency ordinance“ was it had to become effective before January 1, 2013 when a voter approved state law would tie their hands. The new law mandates specific pension formulas for public employees (2.7% at age 55 for police officers and 2% at age 62 for other employee categories). They did, however, put a cap on lateral police hires. The chief can only hire five lateral officers at the 3% at age 50 retirement formula after which he’ll have to request more from Council. After 18 months, lateral hires will have to come in at the new 2.7% at 55 formula but could keep any prior accrued under old pension rules. Rookie hires would come in at the new state rate.

Council again took action on February 19th, upon hearing that City Manger Jim Jakel was planning to retire. They offered him a generous amendment to his contract if he stayed on until the end of December. (Jakel’s employment contract with the city is dated October 14, 2003). If he did so, during the last six months of the year his compensation would also include a monthly retention payment of $2,750 and a monthly deferred compensation payment of $3,533 which would be excluded from the calculation of final compensation for purposes of his PERS retirement formula. Currently his base salary is $16,719 a month.

Not surprisingly the Council has now asked staff to explore ways to increase revenues via a sales tax, a parcel tax or a business license tax, all of which, if mandated for a specific use, require 2/3 vote approval.
In 2010 Antioch voters rejected a half cent non specific sales tax measure which only needed a simple majority to pass but failed when 55% of voters rejected it. The ballot measure stated that the revenues were to be used to avoid further police layoffs (20 less cops on duty than two years before), fix potholes, maintain local streets and sidewalks, restore code enforcement and clean up abandoned property. Opponents were concerned because tax revenues would be deposited in the City’s general fund and could, therefore, be used for all legal governmental purposes.

As for current police staffing, according to police Chief Cantando as of February 21st, here’s the situation: The department is currently authorized for 102 positions and is projected to be at 90 filled positions as of March 11, 2013 with 12 vacancies. An academy student is already hired as a trainee and would fill an authorized position. Ten officers are off duty due to injury, eight of those are OJI (on the job injury) and two are off duty for medical conditions. Two additional officers are on light duty due to OJI injuries, two CSO’s have been hired, another starting on March 11th. Four trainees start the CCCSO academy on April lst. Numerous trainee, lateral and academy graduate candidates are in various stages of the hiring process.

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