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Santa Barbara Council Approves Labor Contract Allowing Vacation Cash-Outs

Agreement with the city's general bargaining unit eliminates employee furloughs

Members of Santa Barbara’s largest employee union can receive vacation cash-outs again under a new agreement approved Tuesday by the City Council.

The cash-outs, which will allow SEIU Local 620 employees in the general bargaining unit to trade unused vacation time for cash, were eliminated for three years during labor negotiations with the city.

It has been a priority to cancel them entirely, which the city accomplished in its contracts with confidential employees, supervisors and managers — but the city couldn’t get approval for it from the general bargaining unit, according to Kristy Schmidt, the city’s employee relations director.

She said the cash-out costs are expected to total about $183,000 annually, with half of that coming from the general fund. She did note that employees taking vacation has an impact measured in productivity, not dollars in the budget.

The agreement approved Tuesday eliminates the furloughs — mandatory unpaid leave — in place for three years, reinstates vacation cash-outs and issues each employee a one-time lump sum of $383.44, Schmidt said.

There was an impasse in negotiations this year, so the current contract period is July 1 through Sept. 30, 2012.

Last year, most non-essential city services were closed in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and employees were on unpaid leave. This year, employees who don’t work can use their vacation balances or take unpaid time off, since there’s much less demand by the public during that time, Schmidt said.

She added that the general-unit memorandum of understanding also includes a reopener clause about a second tier of retirement, salary and benefits for new hires.

Confidential employees, who have a different contract with the city, took the agreement that was initially offered to the general unit — eliminating vacation cash-outs and getting a higher contribution to their medical insurance plans. They will get a one-time cash-out, expected to cost the city $42,450.

Both agreements are cost-neutral in the long run, Schmidt said, though she later said the city saved millions of dollars from using furloughs for three years.

The City Council also approved a $130,000 contract with Civica Software for a new city website. The current site, designed in 2004, has been called “clunky to use,” difficult to navigate, difficult to update with content, and is incompatible with smart phones and tablet computers, according to a city staff report.

After soliciting vendors, the city decided on Civica Software and expects the new site to go live in the second quarter of 2013. The funds will come from the Information Systems Capital Fund and reserves, according to the staff report.

Also during Tuesday’s consent agenda, the council approved a $96,000 contract with Whaley LeVay for a fundraising campaign to build a new Children’s Library on the bottom level of the Central Library.

Library director Irene Macias said the new library would have 6,000 square feet of space, compared with 1,500 now, with areas for events, studying, computers, family restrooms and reading nooks. The $5 million capital campaign would include $2.7 million toward construction, $2 million for a future endowment and about $300,000 would go to campaign costs, she said.

The council also approved a $239,530.50 contract to Mendez Concrete Inc. for La Colina Road Sidewalk Infill Project and an additional $886,016 in expenses toward the $16.2 million Cater Water Treatment Plant advanced treatment project.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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