Stanislaus County leaders consider pension agreement with sworn deputies

kcarlson@modbee.comJanuary 3, 2014 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
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    The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., in downtown Modesto.

— The state’s pension reform law has resulted in a tentative labor agreement with sworn deputies in Stanislaus County.

Deputies would pay their share of the monthly cost for pension benefits through paycheck deductions, but the county would give them a 13.4 percent salary increase to cover the expense. In what officials are calling a one-to-one conversion, the salary hike is equal to the full employee pension contribution that the county has picked up for sworn deputies since 2006.

Supervisors could approve the agreement under a consent item Tuesday in their first meeting since the holiday break.

The Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act requires new hires pay for at least 50 percent of the normal costs of their pensions. And public-agency employers are prohibited from paying the contribution on the behalf of employees.

In California, it has been common for counties to pick up the pension contributions for law enforcement employees, adding to rising pension costs that strain local government budgets. The reform law affects workers hired on or after Jan. 1, 2013, but cannot apply to Stanislaus County deputies until a union contract expires June 30, said County Chief Executive Officer Stan Risen.

County negotiators reached the tentative agreement with the Stanislaus Sworn Deputies Association. The county is in negotiations with the deputies union to carve out a new contract.

“We wanted to get it resolved before the contract expired,” Risen said.

The CEO said the deal will result in higher personnel costs for the county, because the bigger salaries will increase what the county owes for payroll taxes and retirement benefits. The annual increased cost is estimated at $556,000 if all of the 156 positions represented by the union are filled. Almost $500,000 of the increase would come from the general fund, a report said.

Risen said the agreement could make it easier for the Sheriff’s Department to recruit qualified people to fill vacancies.

The reforms also would create a different benefit level for newer employees. “That poses a potential problem when it comes to morale and recruitment,” the CEO said.

If approved, the pay increase would bring the salaries for Stanislaus County deputies closer to the paychecks for Modesto police officers and personnel of other competing agencies.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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