Firefighters agree to pay for own benefits
Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/15/2011 07:55:59 PM PDT

COLTON – Firefighters’ take-home pay will decrease by 9 percent as they begin paying their share of retirement benefits under a package of concessions the City Council approved Tuesday evening.

They also gave up a 6.5 percent raise they had earlier deferred, delayed by five years the age at which new employees will receive full retirement benefits and accepted other concessions that city staff estimate will save $185,455 this fiscal year and $1,019,963 in Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

The agreement comes on the heels of similar concessions by other employee groups, including police officers. Those negotiations lowered the number of police layoffs from a proposed 16 to eight.

“Part of the concern is that as the city has recently given pink slips to eight of our police officers, … one of the things was we wanted to make sure we had a say in how we transition to a smaller department,” said Doug Blinkinsop, Colton representative for the San Bernardino County Professional Firefighters.

Blinkinsop said firefighters had repeatedly shown their willingness to sacrifice as Colton tries to compensate for the loss of a utility tax that had brought in 16 percent of the city’s operating budget.

“Under our last contract, the city came to us four separate times and we stepped up,” he said. “We felt it was important to step up and cooperate again.”

If the city approves an agreement by July 2012 that does not require an employee group to pay its own contribution to the state retirement system, CalPERS, Colton will again pay that 9percent contribution for its firefighters.

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