The police union representative says the plan will not reduce cuts in already negotiated benefits.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- The leader of the city police union has presented a plan to the administration to reduce costs without decreasing wages.
"I think that's great progress," said Otto J. Holm Jr., staff representative for the Fraternal Order of Police Ohio Labor Council.
Holm's comments were made Thursday after discussions with Mayor James A. Melfi and other members of the administration.
Melfi said the police have been proactive in dealing with the city's economic problems.
What's behind this: The city has been under a state-imposed fiscal emergency since Aug. 8 because of its large debt and inability to pay loans.
State Auditor Jim Petro released a city performance audit Jan. 31 that makes numerous cost-savings recommendations.
Neither Holm nor Melfi would discuss the specifics of the plan.
The FOP representative explained the success of the plan depends on the approval of members of the police department.
Holm said he also expects those in other city departments, including the municipal court, to work with the administration in reducing costs.
Melfi and city council have said that departments don't necessary have to follow the audit suggestions, but have to present alternatives that will result in an equal cost savings.
Holm explained that if the plan is approved, there will be no need for police wage cuts. Police will not lose any benefits that have already been negotiated, he added.
Melfi did say the city will sell three to five police vehicles and won't purchase any for the next three years.
Holm said three members of the department laid off by the mayor will be returned to duty.
City firefighters have agreed to a wage freeze this year. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees that represents nonsafety forces workers has not agreed to a freeze.
Audit recommendations: Concerning wages, the performance audit recommends that rather than receiving a 3.25 percent increase this year and 3.5 percent in 2003, employee wages be frozen this year with 2 percent increase in 2003.
The audit notes that police captains are paid 8 percent more than cities of comparable size; patrol officers, 14 percent more; and dispatchers, 16 percent.
In addition, the audit suggests the city change its longevity policy so employees qualify after five years rather than the current one year.
The audit recommends reducing the minimum hours paid for court appearances during days off from a minimum of four hours to a minimum of three hours.
Also, it calls for reducing the clothing allowance of police captains and dispatchers, decreasing the number of personal days off, and reducing bereavement leave and maximum annual vacation from seven to five weeks, and the number of sick leave hours paid when they leave the department.