After lengthy negotiations led to an impasse, the City of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Police Officers Association announced Wednesday that they have reached a tentative agreement for a new three-year labor contract.
Last month, the City of Santa Barbara announced that salary and benefit negotiations were at a standstill, and that police officers must do more to offset rising pension costs.
Negotiations had stalled after several months at the table, and a mediator was brought in to facilitate the talks.
Police pensions are among the most generous offered to city employees, with officers allowed to retire at age 50 and receiving almost their complete annual salary every year for the rest of their lives.
The agreement resulted because of a mediated session between negotiators on Aug. 29, according to a statement sent out by the city on Wednesday.
"We have come to an agreement and it has been ratified by our membership," Eric Beecher, POA president, confirmed to Noozhawk on Wednesday.
The city had sought increased pension contributions from sworn police officers in order to address rising employer rates from CalPERS, and the contributions were "designed to remedy current significant unfunded liabilities in the city’s police pension plan over the next 20 years," the statement said.
Kristy Schmidt, the city's employee relations manager, said the agreement will place the city in a better position to deal with the employee pension issue in coming years.
“Our goal is to have all city employees paying their full share towards retirement benefits,” she said.
The three-year agreement covers sworn and non-sworn employees at the Police Department.
Sworn employees will begin to pay the full 9 percent member contribution to the CalPERS pension plan over the three years, and the city has said it has paid all or part of this contribution in the past.
Sworn employees will receive a 2 percent salary increase in the second year and a 3 percent salary increase in the third year, and the city will increase its contribution toward certain health insurance plans during that time.
Non-sworn Police Department employees will receive a 1.5 percent salary increase in the second year and a 2 percent salary increase in the third year, and these employees already contribute the full member contribution toward their pensions, the statement said.
The Police Officers Association notified the city that its membership ratified the agreement on Tuesday, and the Santa Barbara City Council will be asked to approve the agreement next week at its Sept. 17 meeting.