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Healdsburg OKs new officer but with less generous pension

Healdsburg's City Council this week approved hiring another police officer but required that the new officer receive less generous pension benefits than current officers.

"All of us desperately want to allow the chief to fill the position," said Mayor Gary Plass. "We want to be creative."

The boost in police ranks comes as the Police Officers Association and the city put finishing touches on a new contract that reduces pension benefits for new hires.

"The agreement is all but done," Plass said.

Plass and Councilman Tom Chambers also are running for re-election in November, and council critics and candidate Vernon Simmons have said the city needs to do more to restrain the costs of employee benefits and salaries.

Escalating pension costs for public employees have been a hot topic both statewide and nationally as governments face budget cuts and because private sector workers don't enjoy the same benefits.

City Council members said they want to ensure new officers are part of a "second tier" for pension benefits, the formula that will be applied under the new contract.

Instead of the current system of being eligible to retire at age 50 with 3 percent of salary for every year of service, new officers would only get 2 percent of salary for every year.

Chambers said that second tier is critical to preserve the workforce.

"We want everybody at the city to keep their job," he said, adding it's necessary "so we can hire people and they can be here a long time."


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