Placer County union offers its own cost-cutting plan

County CEO wants to see union take a longer view on budget reductions
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County’s largest employee organization has offered its own option to help close next year’s projected $23 million budget gap. But while county CEO Tom Miller said he’s pleased with the union’s willingness to look for solutions, he’s hoping it will take a longer view in contract talks. Presented at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the Placer Public Employees Organization’s offer calls for an extension of the current contract a further year and putting in place a “zero” cost-of-living increase provision. The employee union is also offering to have its members continue unpaid furlough days – but drop the number from 12 this past year to 10. The employee organization offer would increase the number of furlough days from the five the county CEO’s office has proposed for the coming year. Union President Clark Gehlbach presented the offer at the meeting, stating the organization – which represents 1,940 workers – “accepts the necessity of ‘sharing the pain’ of next year’s budget.” The union’s contract with the county is up at the end of June. At a board meeting last week, supervisors directed staff to seek a new contract that in the next year would continue furlough days, drop the cost-of-living increase to zero, and increase healthcare cost sharing percentages for workers. Supervisors are also seeking a suspension of all merit pay increases. “We believe the proposal by the Placer Public Employees Organization is certainly a step in the right direction but it ignores the need for long-term solutions, an important point discussed at last week’s budget briefing,” Miller said. The CEO’s office is seeking a higher percentage of employee participation in health insurance costs over a longer-term contract. Management employees have already agreed to nine furlough days, no cost-of-living increase, plus an increased share of healthcare costs. According to the union’s statement, its combination of cuts could save $5.6 million in 2010-11 – or $600,000 more than the county is seeking. – Gus Thomson