Police Chief given raise

City defends 15 percent pay hike while negotiating raises for all officers
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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The Rocklin City Council unanimously approved a change to Police Chief Ron Lawrence’s 18-month-old employment contract on Aug. 28 to include a 15-percent pay hike. The raise comes on the heels of a decision to eliminate pay for reserve officers. Negotiations for raises for rank and file officers are underway. Lawrence, a 22-year veteran, was promoted from captain to chief in April 2011, receiving a salary of $166,805 plus benefits and a pension through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. According to the city, his salary will now increase to $193,034. Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst said 9 percent of the increase will cover the chief’s mandated pension contributions to CalPERS. Previously, the city paid both the city’s and the chief’s contributions to CalPERS. The decision was sharply criticized by Marcia Fritz, president of California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, a government watchdog group critical of pension spiking by city officials in the past. Fritz said the pay hike is not a good deal for Rocklin taxpayers. “It is costing (taxpayers) more money. His take home and pension both went up,” Fritz said. As for benefits, Lawrence receives 80 hours of management leave annually, a cell phone allowance of $100 per month, a city-owned vehicle and gas for it as well as a uniform allowance. Last year the city only reimbursed Lawrence $523 for uniform costs, even though he reported spending $1,226. The new contract amendment caps reimbursement for uniform costs at $950. The city has agreed to adjust Lawrence’s annual salary with a cost-of-living adjustment on the same percentage amount as the city’s management salary ranges. Additionally, the city may increase salary and/or other benefits for Lawrence based on his annual performance evaluation. Horst said Lawrence’s performance is part of the reason for the 6 percent raise. “Police Chief Ron Lawrence has been called upon to step up, to do more with less. It has required new strategies, a new approach, innovation and just plain hard work,” Horst said. “The evidence suggests that Rocklin remains a safe, family community.” Rocklin Police report crime is down in every category, except burglary and auto theft. Rocklin has 18.2 crimes per 1,000 people, which is down from 19.5 in 2011. Lawrence has reorganized the department, which reportedly saved the city $35,000 in salaries. Chief Lawrence also presided over changes in how the fleet department installs equipment in patrol cars, which saved the city $33,000. Of note, the $40,000 budget for reserve officers was slashed last year after Lawrence recommended the council eliminate salaries as a cost-savings measure. Now, instead of earning $16 per hour, incoming reserve officers serve as volunteers. Horst believes the issue of paying reserve officers is irrelevant. “There is a budget for the pre-existing officers.” Horst said. “The reserve officers are an entry level position and work only a certain amount of hours, as they decide to work. They are not called upon to work extra shifts. They don’t work a straight 40. Most of them work other jobs. They go to school and do other things. It’s really a certified volunteer.” Currently, there are three paid reserves and three unpaid reserves in the department. “We have saved money in salary for reserve officers, but the savings were channeled toward hiring, equipment and uniforms for additional unpaid reserves,” Rocklin Police Lt. Lon Milka explained. “Thus, RPD has added reserve positions.” Even as the city struggles with a slow economic recovery, the council has voted to begin giving raises following years of wage freezes. During the recession, Rocklin lost nearly one-third of its employee base and nearly 25 percent of its annual general fund budget, according to Horst. This year the city will give 1.5 percent raises to many of the employees, including management. Fire personnel will get a 2.5 percent increase next year. The Rocklin Police Officers Association, the union representing police rank and file officers, is currently negotiating with the city to amend the contract. Starting in January, sworn and non-sworn officers will receive a 3.5 percent raise for the next three consecutive years. Horst called the increases “unaffordable.” “It’s not needed to stay competitive with other cities,” Horst said. “What I’ve always struggled with is how do you forecast three, four, five years ahead of what pay raises will be when you have no idea what your revenues will be. That’s problematic to me. These are the things that have to be talked about.” The president of the Rocklin Police Officers’ Association declined to comment on the police chief’s contract or the details of the current contract negotiation. “The message is all of our employees are dedicated and hard working. All of them have demonstrated a willingness to compromise and to understand the issue. The steps we’ve taken to date (we) have been able to do it with a balanced budget without calling on (cash) reserves,” Horst said. “Frankly, life is a little better, but it still has got to be a realistic expectation.” ________ Raises within City of Rocklin Fire Dept.: 2.5% in 2013 Public Service Employees: 1.5% in 2012 City Management: 1.5% in 2012 Public Safety Management: 1.5% in 2012 Confidential Employee Group: 1.5% in 2012 Police Dept.: 3.5% in 2013 Police Chief Salary 2011: $166,805 Now: $193,034 Predecessor: $197,904 Source: City of Rocklin