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Firefighters, city settle contract dispute
Ceres city seal

The city has settled its contract negotiations with the Ceres Professional Firefighters’ Association Local 3636.

Firefighters have been working without a contract which expired on June 30, 2016. It was the last bargaining group that the city needed to settle.

The main provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding will be in effect until June 30, 2021 and includes a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to the base wage of 1.5 percent for each year of the agreement.

“Classic” member contribution to the employee-share of retirement will be equal to half of employee’s share, implemented over the term of the agreement. In exchange, classic employees receive a 6 percent base wage increase, effective in the first year. The city is also offering a 7.5 percent education incentive for certified fire captains who complete chief fire officer requirements.

The new agreement will add $83,374 in personnel costs in the present budget.

When the matter came to a vote on Dec. 10, Vice Mayor Linda Ryno wanted to verify that the city was not offering retroactivity to June 2016. On Sept. 24 Ryno cast the lone “no” vote against the new contract with the Ceres Police Officers Association because it extended a retroactive pay increase. 

In June the council adopted the 2018-19 fiscal year spending plan after rejecting an idea to close the Ceres Fire Station #2 on Pecos Avenue. 

The council chose to pursue three-man engine companies at the three open fire stations and said it wants to explore restructuring of fire services once a new fire chief has been hired. To achieve three-man engine companies the city needs to fill two vacant firefighter positions and add two more firefighters. The move will require reclassifying some captain and three engineers down to firefighters. The result will be nine engineers, nine firefighters and nine captains.

The city’s financial standings improved vastly from a year ago because of increased sales tax receipts as well as an expected $1.6 million in revenue from three development agreements inked with one medical marijuana producer and two cannabis dispensaries. Wells warned that the state is advising an economic slowdown could be coming and that there is no end in sight to upward spiraling pension costs.