Cotati public employees agree to more cuts

Cotati leaders took another step Wednesday toward cutting the city's pension costs, approving a new contract with City Hall and public works employees that will reduce its contribution to retirement and medical benefit programs.

The agreement with the Cotati Employees Association follows contracts inked with the city's police officers and police sergeants last year.

The nine-member union also agreed that City Hall employees will continue twice-monthly furloughs and Public Works employees approved other concessions that have been in place for two years. Those concessions are to be phased out over the next 18 months.

It marks the latest round of cost cutting Cotati has achieved through labor talks.

"Our CEA employees have stepped up to do their part to help the city recover from the economic downturn," City Manager Dianne Thompson said before Wednesday's council meeting.

Still, much of the savings won't start being realized until mid-2012, and real savings in pension costs begin to occur only over the longer term.

Some city leaders also have warned that job applicants may find the city a less appealing employer.

"When you're out ahead of everyone else when it comes to compensation, you will eventually come up against a wall," said Councilman Robert Coleman-Senghor.

"One of the walls now is the number of candidates we're getting in for some ... positions and the expectations of some of these candidates," he said.

Under the new contract, existing employees in mid-2012 will pay more of their CalPERS retirement premiums. And new employees will pay the full employee share, or about 8 percent.

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