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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : GARDEN GROVE

New Pact Gives Police Officers Better Pensions

The three-year contract allows employees to collect the same pension at 50 as they would have received at 55 under their old deal.

August 25, 2000|CHRIS CEBALLOS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Included in the new three-year contract recently approved for Garden Grove police is a perk that will allow officers to retire two to five years earlier with full benefits.

The "3 at 50" retirement benefit will allow officers to collect a percentage of their salary when they reach the age of 50, based on the number the years they've worked multiplied by three.

For example, an officer who retired at age 50 and who worked 15 years on the force would receive 45% of his or her salary.

"Essentially what this means is they'll be able to retire at 50 making pretty close to what they would have had to wait until 55," Deputy City Manager Catherine Standiford said. "It's a 50% increase in retirement benefit."

Councilman Mark Leyes voted against the contract, saying police deserved a salary raise, but the retirement benefit was "a little too generous for Garden Grove, which is traditionally underfunded."

"I'm afraid that we will be pressured to raise taxes," he said.

But other council members said tourism revenue from the six hotels being built near the Disneyland expansion will offset the additional retirement costs.

"We will show a profit to the hotels before Disney shows a profit to their new park," Councilman Mark Rosen said.

Previously, officers operated under a sliding scale that allowed pensions to top out at 2.7 times the number of years worked. Under both formulas, officers can earn up to 85% of their salary at retirement.

Leyes also voted against a new contract for police middle management because it included the same retirement benefit. He said the higher benefit is inevitable in Orange County, but that the costs may force police to have to "do more with less," an unsettling mantra used by city officials during bitter contract negotiations last year, he said.

At that time city officials feared a mass exodus of officers--upset that their salaries were ranked only 20th among Orange County police departments. The new raises and benefits will make Garden Grove officers' salaries the fourth-highest.

The retirement benefits will not take effect until October 2001. City officials hope to negotiate a similar retirement package for city firefighters, whose contract is up that year, and tie the two programs together.

Chris Ceballos can be reached at (714) 966-7440

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