The City Council this week approved a new contract with the police union this week that includes a 6.5% salary increase for officers, but that will also require them to pay their full share of retirement contributions.
Even with officers paying more toward their retirement benefits, the pay raises will mean overall added costs to the city of roughly $320,000 through the life of the contract, which is good through the 2014-15 fiscal year.
“The BPOA is happy this protracted contract negotiation is behind us and looks forward to more positive changes in the future,” Sgt. Claudio Losacco, the union’s vice president, said in an email.
He added that the union made several concessions on working conditions and benefits “for the betterment of the city and the Police Department.”
The city expects to save about $147,500 over two years through the higher officer pension contributions, according to the report. overallsaid Management Services Director Judie Wilke.
Councilman David Gordon said he was pleased the city and police were able to come to an agreement on the labor contract, adding that it had been a long time coming.
As for the cost to the city, Gordon said it was a tough time for the city but public safety was important.
“It’s hard to put a price tag on the importance of public safety,” Gordon said. “I wish our economic times were better and we would be able to cover these costs more easily. From my perspective, we should ensure the very best public safety, and that’s going to cost money.
“It’s very hard to be penny-wise when it comes to public safety, but then again, we need to balance that with our budget and what we have.”
Another element of the new contract is that city officials hope to save money in the future by lowering the bottom of the salary range for new hires by 10%.
Lowering the salary range means it will take longer for an employee to go through the pay scale, Wilke said, although those savings can’t be predicted because officials don’t know how many new hires there will be.
Also, new employees don’t have to be brought in at the lowest pay level since the police chief can take experience and qualifications into consideration when hiring, Wilke said.
Losacco said the department would want to stay competitive.
“It's the BPOA's belief that competition from other agencies for top-notch recruits will force the Chief of Police to start new officers at a higher step than the new lower range calls for,” he said.
As part of a past agreement, the city had been paying a 9% employee pension contribution on behalf of the officers, but the police union felt that agreeing to eventually pay the full amount instead, with some compensation in return, protected membership.
“The current climate appears to be heading in this direction,’ Losacco said, “so we thought it best to get ahead and lead the city that way now.”