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Fire union contract changes approved

President says the firefighters came in good faith to help the city ease its budget deficit.

October 13, 2010|By Mona Shadia, mona.shadia@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — The City Council has approved amendments to the firefighters' employee contract, which will save more than $600,000 over 12 months.

The Costa Mesa Firefighters Assn. did not have to re-open its contract, but the firefighters did so in good faith to help the city close its budget deficit, said union President Tim Vasin.

"I think the gracious thing to do is to say, 'Thank you,' and also to obviously, for the taxpayers and for the rest of the city, obviously take what is being offered," said former Mayor Sandy Genis. "But I don't think it's either gracious or in the best interest of the city as a whole to try to wring the last drop out of anybody who's coming forward voluntarily."

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The firefighters agreed to contribute an additional 5% into their pensions, which means the city will pay 3% of the 9% that goes into firefighter retirement accounts. The contributions will take effect Oct. 24 and will continue for a year for a $485,000 savings.

The amendment also suspended a salary increase scheduled to take effect in September. The association will also pay for an analysis that will compare the cost of running the department to that of having the Orange County Fire Authority provide services to the city. Costa Mesa is not obligated to enter into a contract with the Fire Authority once the analysis is complete, but if it does, Costa Mesa will pay the association for half of the costs to complete the analysis.

Mayor Allan Mansoor and Councilman Eric Bever voted against the amendments during Tuesday's council meeting.

"I appreciate that the firefighters association has come to the city with their intent to help out because they recognize that we are in pretty dire straits," but it wasn't enough, Bever said.

"If we do the math, we're not quite getting there."

He suggested that about $1.25 million of the equipment funds be re-allocated to make up the difference.

Vasin told Bever that this isn't the first time the firefighters have worked with the city to help close its budget deficit.

Last year, the firefighters agreed to take salary and benefit cuts that amounted to about $1.2 million, he said.

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