ONTARIO - It will be many years before the city begins to realize the financial impacts from the concessions made by its public safety agencies.

But the City Council was not slow to praise safety personnel unions for agreeing to reduce future retirement costs which will save Ontario "a considerable amount" in the future.

"I want to thank all of you for all the sacrifices that you made," Councilman Alan Wapner said. "Everyone has heard problems with government facing shortfalls but Ontario, because of the cooperation of our employees, once again, are going to be able to save a lot of money to really benefit the city."

The agreements approved were for the Ontario Police Officers Association, Ontario Police Management Group, Ontario Professional Firefighters Association, and the Ontario Fire Management Group.

As in previous years, Ontario's safety personnel unions have agreed to forgo scheduled raises to help the city stay within its budget.

Since the economic downturn, the city's law enforcement unions - as well as other unions - have agreed to some concession in their contracts to help maintain city services.

This time around, the agencies agreed to something with long term effects -- tiering.

The safety groups agreed to offer a second tier of capped retiree medical benefits for employees hired on or after July 1.

Employees under the new second tier must contribute the minimum of $115 per month.


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According to a staff report, once employees in the second tier retire, they will receive monthly employer contribution for retiree medical costs equal to the minimum legally required under the Public Employees' Medical and Hospital Care Act.

City Manager Chris Hughes said the city doesn't have the exact figure but says it's going to parlay to "a considerable amount" of savings over the course of more than 20 to 30 years.

"I know it's tough, I know it's something philosophically everyone has been opposed to. Tiering is a very difficult thing...it was something that we needed to do," Wapner said.

Wapner credited Hughes, a former fire chief for the city, with being able to negotiate the health benefit concessions. He also thanked the employees for helping the city remain solvent.

"Everybody involved in our labor unions and our staff do what it takes to run a city fiscally responsible like this," he said.

And as other cities in the county are either facing bankruptcy or discussing ways to avert it, they are also reducing services to residents, Wapner said.

Yet, Ontario has remained unaffected, he said.

"If you don't have some kind of compromise then we go broke and no one has anything. Our staff has done a great job in working with us to make sure residents do not see a decrease in services but make sure we are solvent and still doing well," Wapner said.


Reach Liset via email, call her at 909-483-8556, or find her on Twitter @DBOntarioNow.