City of San Luis Obispo has tentative deal with police

San Luis Obispo police officers are expected to forgo a second consecutive year of cost-of-living increases and additional health insurance contributions in 2011 as part of a tentative agreement with the city that will go before the City Council on Tuesday night.

City officials and the Police Officers’ Association have worked out an understanding that reflects the agreements of four other groups of city employees for the period of Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2011.

The police officers’ union — which represents 62 employees — had stalled on negotiations, not because it wanted pay increases but because it wanted a guarantee the city wouldn’t cut any more positions from its line-level staff, according to Matt Blackstone, the union’s president.

Line-level staff includes patrol and traffic officers, detectives, dispatchers and technicians. Four positions were already eliminated in the 2009-10 fiscal year, Blackstone said.

The union’s members will not pay any more for health insurance under the agreement, which also did not include any step increases. There was no guarantee that additional positions would not be cut.

The city faces a budget gap of $2.6 million over the next five years. City Manager Katie Lichtig said to achieve financial sustainability the city needs to have the flexibility to reduce positions if necessary.

The tentative agreement provides estimated savings of $233,800, in addition to estimated savings of $490,000 from the other groups, which include the majority of city workers and firefighters.

“We’re very pleased that for the second year in a row POA has reached an agreement with the city,” Lichtig said. “This is part of a larger strategy to deal with the financial sustainability of the city.”

Blackstone said that while the union remains concerned about providing the best public safety it can and maintaining its staffing, union leaders recognized the need to “do our part to help the city.”

“For the time being, we realize the state of the financial situation,” Blackstone said. “Most cities in the nation are in the same boat.”