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Community Commentary: Contract agreements are for everyone's own good

November 11, 2010|By Wendy Leece

I would like to thank the people of Costa Mesa who voted to re-elect me for four more years on the City Council. I am honored to serve the citizens of our great city.

As an elected councilwoman, I am reminded daily of the core mission of any city: to protect its citizens, provide emergency services, keep traffic moving on safe city streets, support a growing economic base and provide essential services — all within a balanced budget. Costa Mesa is fortunate to have hard-working fire and police personnel who keep our city safe and secure and have reduced our city's serious crime rate by 12% since 2009.

On Oct. 26, I voted with council members Gary Monahan and Katrina Foley for new employee agreements that support this mission. I want you to understand the reasons for my vote.

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The agreements allow the city to save $3.6 million in the 2010-11 budget. During the next four years under the agreement, the city will save a total of $7.2 million . These reductions are locked in.

The agreements contain significant cost savings to the city as well as ground-breaking steps toward pension reform: 1) for the first time, all city employees have agreed to contribute to their retirement funds; 2) with this agreement's approval, new general employees hired will now be covered by a retirement plan which, among other provisions, offers a smaller package of benefits and raises the retirement age from 55 to 60.

This deal is a breakthrough reached after five months of negotiations between the city and the employee groups. City staff recommended approval of these various agreements because all parties made significant cost and contractual concessions. Also, our city attorney advised us of significant legal problems for the city if we voted against the agreements. This confidential information was given to all of the council's members.

The projected savings in the new agreements cut the city's budgetary shortfall from $9.5 million to $6.5 million. This is the first of many actions that the council will consider in coming weeks to cut city spending.

In January, the council will review the 2010-11 budget at its mid-year budget session. We will look at projections for revenue and identify other potential reductions needed to balance the budget.

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