Members of Oakland's police union have voted by an "overwhelming" margin to contribute more money to their retirement plan in return for a promise by city officials that no more officers will be laid off, union President Dom Arotzarena said today.
However, Arotzarena emphasized that the officers' concessions and the city's no-layoff promise depend on the passage of a controversial parcel tax on the November ballot that calls for property owners to pay $360 a year for four years so the city can hire more officers.
The leadership of the Oakland Police Officers Association agreed to the concessions two weeks ago, just before the City Council voted by a 5-3 margin to place the parcel tax on the ballot, but the union's membership needed to approve them.
If the membership hadn't approved the concessions, the City Council would have taken the measure off the ballot.
The parcel tax, which is expected to raise $53 million a year, needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
Arotzarena declined to provide his membership's vote totals.
Police officers are the only city of Oakland employees who don't contribute to the cost of their retirements. Other employees contribute 9 percent of that cost.
Arotzarena said the union had already provided $34 million in concessions last year when it agreed to contribute 2 percent of their retirement costs starting Jan. 1, 2013.
He said the union has now agreed to contribute 4 percent in 2011 and 3 percent in 2012, so officers will be contributing 9 percent in 2013.
Oakland was authorized by a 2004 ballot measure called Measure Y to have 803 officers, but layoffs and attrition have left it with only 687 officers, police spokesman Jeff Thomason said today.
One of the biggest hits was the City Council's vote in June to lay off 80 officers to help the city close its large budget gap.
Arotzarena said that if the parcel tax is approved, those 80 officers would be rehired and the city would avoid having to lay off another 122 officers, an action the city has threatened if its fiscal situation doesn't improve.
But he said if the parcel tax loses the city might be left with only 574 officers by the end of the year.
Arotzarena said that in return for being promised that there won't be any layoffs, the police union "is willing to educate the voters about what it means to have enough officers to protect their safety."
The parcel tax is but one of four tax measures that Oakland residents will vote on in November.
The second biggest is an Oakland Unified School District parcel tax that asks property owners to pay $195 a year to generate $20 million annually to increase teachers' salaries.
The others, which only require a simple majority to pass, are a telephone access charge that would add a $1.99 tax to each phone line, including cell phones and an increased tax on medical cannabis businesses.