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Changes in SMPD Contracts to Save Nearly $3 Million Over Two Years

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By Jorge Casuso

August 20, 2020 -- The City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve contracts covering Police Department employees that will save nearly $3 million over the next two fiscal years "while the world waits for an effective vaccine to COVID-19," according to City staff.

A total of $2,923,000 will be saved by reducing salaries and suspending the Sick Leave Buy Back Program for Police Department employees, according to the tentative agreements with Administrative Team Associates (ATA) and the Santa Monica Police Officers Association (POA).

The proposed agreement with the POA also suspends a long-standing contract provision that guarantees pay increases to make Santa Monica police officers the second highest paid among ten other Los Angeles area departments.

"Because of the economic uncertainty created by COVID-19, the City plans to stabilize the budget over the next two fiscal years," staff wrote.

The negotiated tentative agreements will save an estimated $1.8 million in Fiscal Year 2020-21 and $1.123 million in the following fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2021, according to a staff report for Tuesday's Council meeting.

The savings have been included "in financial projections presented to the Council to date" and "will be used to mitigate the budget deficit brought about by the decline in revenues," the staff report said.

In May, the Council voted to cut jobs programs and services in an effort to help bridge a projected $150 million deficit triggered by the coronavirus shutdown ("City Council Slashes Up to 247 Full-time Jobs; Cuts Will Be Felt at All Levels," May 6, 2020).

Tentative agreements regarding the wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment were quickly reached between the City and POA, but it took "approximately six weeks of discussions" to reach a tentative agreement with the administrative union.

The sick leave program -- which allows employees to cash in unused leave time at the end of the fiscal year -- was suspended not only to save money but to address health concerns during the coronavirus emergency, staff said.

"Under the current program structure, employees may be incentivized to report to work sick," staff wrote.

"In today’s environment, such a program is contrary to the City’s goal of maintaining a safe working environment and reducing the spread of COVID-19."

To compensate for the loss of the program, employees will be given an additional 40 hours of sick leave each fiscal year during the term of the agreements, staff said.

Cost savings will also result after the POA agreed to suspend a provision in its contract that allows increases to officers' salaries based on the salaries paid to officers in ten other cities.

The provision requires that Santa Monica officers' salaries be "increased by the percentage necessary to cause the 'net pay' of the Police Officer classification to be the second highest of the 'net pay' in those other cities."

The comparable cities are Torrance, Beverly Hills, Inglewood, Gardena, Culver City, Pasadena, Glendale, El Segundo, Burbank, and Redondo Beach.

The tentative agreement does not prevent the City from moving ahead with reforming the Police Department's use-of-force policies or reallocating or shifting resources within its budget, staff wrote.

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