ANTIOCH -- Citing the need to attract veteran police officers to a city plagued by increased crime, Antioch leaders this week said they will consider reinstating pension benefits that were scaled back earlier this year because of budget woes.
Antioch may amend its state Public Employees' Retirement System contract to incorporate a "3 percent at age 50" formula for veteran public safety hires and "2.7 percent at age 55" formula for employees hired for other city jobs.
The City Council will consider the change at its Tuesday meeting, once it has actuarial data from the state outlining potential costs.
"There's a cost to this if we do nothing; we just haven't quantified that yet, but there's a cost to doing nothing," Councilman Gary Agopian said Tuesday. "This council tonight is doing something."
Police Chief Allan Cantando said Antioch is having "recruitment dilemmas," in that police officers from other agencies, or lateral hires, are not going to want to leave their present jobs for ones with reduced retirement benefits.
"We're not talking about one, two or three officers; we're talking potentially 25 in the next 18 months. As police chief, I'm concerned with my staffing on the streets," he said. "We're going to need every tool available."
Antioch's "3 percent at 50" pension calculation would mean that police are entitled to retire starting at age 50 with 3 percent of the average of the highest three years of pay multiplied by years of service.
Antioch switched its contract with its police union earlier this year to a "3 percent at 55" formula, which allows retirement starting at age 55.
After Antioch adopted that change, Gov. Jerry Brown signed new statewide laws that further reduced the benefit level for new rookie cops and froze benefit formulas for veteran officers hired from other state agencies.
Under the new state laws, lateral hires recruited in the future will earn pension benefits in effect at the end of this year.
The retirement formula cap for rookie government hires after Jan. 1 is 2.7 percent at age 57 for public safety and 2.5 percent at age 67 for other employees.
Tom Fuhrmann, president of the Antioch Police Officers Association, said the contract agreement was made based on the assumption that the state would go to the 3 percent at 55 plan.
Instead, Antioch sees itself with a three-tier plan, rather than the two-tiers it desired.
"Things took a sharp turn from where we thought they were going to go," he said.
Fuhrmann also questioned whether the city wanted all potential new hires to be immature officers fresh out of the academy, a point the council echoed.
"There needs to be a blend of employees that are in an organization. To bring in 20 to 30 academy graduates, will be a nightmare in terms of the training component," said Councilman Brian Kalinowski, a Contra Costa Sheriff's lieutenant.
Antioch would not have any unfunded liability on the public safety side, as it has not hired anyone under the 3 percent at 55 calculation, said Michelle Fitzer, the city's human resources director. Eight people have been hired under the 2 percent at 55 calculation for other city positions, which would result in some unfunded liability, she said.
Concord, Richmond, San Pablo and Vallejo are among the East Bay cities that use the 3 percent at 50 retirement formula for sworn public safety officers. Brentwood, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek and Martinez use a 3 percent at 55 calculation.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.