January 20th, 2010, 7:25 pm · posted by Jennifer Muir

Sheriff’s deputies have agreed to start paying for a share of their retirement costs and reduce the lucrative “3 at 50″ pension benefit for new employees.

Members of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs voted overwhelmingly to approve a tentative three-year contract agreement with the county, union spokesman George Urch said tonight. The plan comes after months of negotiation with the county, which was pushing for ways to reduce deputy retirement costs.

About half the union’s members voted, and 86.5 percent — or 766 members — approved the tentative agreement, Urch said. The union’s president Wayne Quint declined to comment until after county supervisors vote on the agreement.

Supervisor Pat Bates touted the vote as a step forward toward pension reform.

“We have taken a very important step toward creating a sustainable pension system,” Bates said tonight. “I think we set a new bar for negotiations in other employee pensions.”

The tentative deal marks the first time that the union has been willing to back off its “3 at 50″ pension formula, which allows members to retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their salary.

New employees would not be able to retire until age 55, when they can collect 3 percent of their annual pay for each year they worked at the department, according to details released today by the union. New employees also would contribute 6.6 percent of their retirement costs.

Existing employees would contribute 5 percent of their retirement costs by January 2012. Currently, deputies don’t share the cost of their retirement plans.

Earlier this week, Supervisor John Moorlach called the deal a step in the right direction, but he said that more needs to be done.

“The movement we have made with AOCDS is good, but it isn’t good enough,” Moorlach wrote in an email to constituents last week. “The Sheriff’s Department will be facing more layoffs if we do not receive more concessions. It’s that simple.”

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