Water district directors OK 4-year contract calling for 2 percent annual raise for workers
By Karen Brainard
With its employee union contract expiring Dec. 31, Ramona Municipal Water District directors approved a new four-year contract that gives employees a 2 percent annual raise and increases employee contributions to pensions. A state law requires the increased employee pension contributions.
The contract also guarantees an annual cost of living increase (COLA) of 1 percent minimum and 3 percent maximum.
The new contract, effective Jan. 1, 2014, was announced after a closed session at the board’s Dec. 10 meeting. The board has been negotiating with the Ramona Municipal Water District Employees Association (RMWDEA) bargaining unit for the past three months.
“The challenge for these negotiations was to reduce current and future costs and still remain competitive in the labor market in order to continue to provide the best quality service to RMWD customers,” Darrell Beck, board president, said, reading from a press release. “The RMWD Board of Directors and RMWDEA accomplished these overall goals by agreeing to shift more of the employee’s retirement expense burden to the employees which will result in substantial savings to RMWD customers for several decades.”
The state Pension Reform Act of 2013 requires employees to contribute 8 percent of their salary to their pensions by 2017. District employees now contribute 3 percent. That will increase to 4.25 percent on Jan. 1, and by an additional 1.25 percent for each of the next three years to meet the mandate.
The district contributes an amount equal to 26 percent of each employee’s salary to pension funds, as required by California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), said RMWD General Manager David Barnum. RMWD stops the contributions once an employee retires, he said.
Under the new contract, new employees will pay 6.75 percent of their salary to their pensions and the district will pay an amount less than 26 percent, he said.
The new contract also eliminates a “bridge” medical benefit for those who retire before age 65, when they are eligible for Medicare. The bridge benefit allowed retirees to receive a discount on RMWD’s lowest cost insurance. Eliminating this benefit will over time reduce the district’s liability in its insurance pool, said Barnum.
The board approved the new contract 4-0 with Director Kit Kesinger absent. The directors also approved a 2014 employee classification and salary schedule, which will be posted on the district’s website, rmwd.org, at the start of the new year.
Also at the meeting, three long-time employees who are retiring this month were recognized with resolutions of appreciation.
After 32 years working for the district, Fire Marshal and Ramona resident Saul Villagomez is retiring, effective Dec. 30.
In addition, Kevin Skahan, who has worked for the district for 29 years, currently as wastewater treatment operator II, is retiring. Angel Yanez, a collection system worker II, is retiring after 25 years with the district. Barnum said the district will be filling the three jobs.
Tim Clement was introduced as the district’s new human resource manager, replacing Mike Callahan, who retired. Clement previously worked as a senior human resource analyst for San Diego County Water Authority.
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