Originally posted at 5:59 p.m. March 25, 2014. Edited to add new information.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors today approved union contracts that will cost taxpayers nearly $7.5 million more per year.
The contracts with eight bargaining units of the Orange County Employees Association include 1.25 percent annual raises, but also contain cuts in benefits, including health care.
County employees also will receive a one-time bonus equivalent to 1.25 percent of their salaries, which will cost the county $14.2 million this fiscal year, according to Human Resources Director Steve Danley.
An employee making $20 an hour would receive a bonus check of about $520, Danley said.
Health care benefits will be scaled back, with employees paying for about 10 percent of the cost of insurance, about double the previous rate, Danley said.
County officials wanted to get rid of another benefit that allowed employees to receive up to 40 hours of vacation time if they met goals, but that perk was halved, Danley said.
Both sides accepted a mediator's proposal after negotiations stalled.
Danley said concessions in the newly signed contracts would save the county about $15.6 million by the 2016 fiscal year.
The raises and bonus checks will cost $37.8 million over the three fiscal years, and the net cost to taxpayers would be $22.2 million.
Contract negotiations ground to halt, and an impasse was declared.
"This one had to go to impasse, and the mediator came along and said, 'Why don't you split the baby,' " Supervisor John Moorlach said. "The goal was to keep the net compensation as even as possible."
Union general manager Nick Berardino said the mediator "made a compromise proposal that has things I think both sides liked and things both sides didn't like, but in the end we compromised."
"We see it as a bridge proposal that gives us a year to work on some other approaches," Berardino said.
Union leaders have been critical of county officials, complaining of no raises since 2007, Moorlach said. However, county officials argued the workers were receiving more in benefits.
"Between 2007 and 2012 their total compensation went up more than 16 percent, but they're not seeing it because they haven't gotten a pay raise," Moorlach said.
Part of the hold-up in negotiations was settling a tax dispute with the state. Until it was settled, county officials did not know how much money they would have to spend on raises.
The Orange County Employee's Association represents about 12,000 county employees.
The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs is negotiating its contract with county officials. The union representing the county's prosecutors and public defenders are challenging a contract imposed on them in court.
--City News Service