Wes Woods II, Staff Writer
Created: 07/29/2010 05:55:39 PM PDT

CLAREMONT – A couple of City Council members are questioning pension costs for police officers.

The city of Claremont and the Claremont Police Management Association this week approved a contract that saves more than $19,300 compared to the adopted budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Councilman Peter Yao and Corey Calaycay were against the item at Tuesday night’s council meeting because there was only a slight decrease in pension costs – 1.9 percent. Yao and Calaycay said they felt that the police management association needs to contribute more money to its members’ retirement benefits.

“That to me is a serious flaw,” Yao said on Thursday. “Since we’re only talking about the police management association, it’s only fewer than 10 employees in that union. But add up five or six unions and you’re talking about … 160 employees as of today.”

The council voted to implement a two-tier retirement plan for the 2011-12 fiscal year, giving reduced benefits to safety employees hired after the implementation date. The terms will need to be negotiated.

The city will continue to pay the CPMA employees’ 9 percent contribution to the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS.

Yao wants the employees to instead contribute the 9 percent to reduce the city’s costs.

“It’s my estimate if we ask employees up to the maximum, which is 9 percent, I think that will probably address 20 percent of the underfunding problems.

But somewhere along the way the city has to find the money to address 80 percent of the funding.

“In my opinion, if we don’t go with the assumption that the PERS organization uses – and they use a very optimistic assumption in projecting future costs – if we use realistic costs, our underfunding is upward of $40 million,” Yao said.

Calaycay described passing the pension benefits at Tuesday’s meeting as “kicking the can forward … it’s problematic.”

Employees from the CPMA agreed to forgo a 1.9 percent cost of living adjustment through June 30, 2011.

No one from the association spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and a spokesperson could not be reached Thursday.

Other council members, such as Larry Schroeder, felt the agreement was a step forward.

“It’s very hard to straighten this out overnight in one big gulp,” Schroeder said.

“If we were to say all of a sudden we want employees to have no raises, pay for their retirement and agree to a two-tier system … if you’re an employee, you wouldn’t be real happy about it. It would be onerous.”

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