YOUNGSTOWN -- The city has signed four three-year contracts with its unionized employees.
The new deals mean a total $3.7 million increase in city personnel costs over the next three years.
That could mean layoffs, Finance Director David Bozanich said.
At their Wednesday night session, city council approved new contracts with its police officers, water department workers and wastewater treatment plant employees.
Uniformed and ranking officers will get 9 percent raises over three years; water department workers 8 percent over three years; and the wastewater department employees 9 percent over three years.
The city has 124 patrol officers and 66 ranking officers. There are 82 water department employees and about the same number at the treatment plant.
The police pacts expire Nov. 30, 2006, and the water and wastewater treatment contracts expire in 2007.
All the contracts contain co-pays on health insurance that begin at 3 percent and rise to 7 percent by their expiration.
The raises will cost the city $1 million this year, $1.2 million the second year, and $1.5 million the third year, Bozanich said.
"It's going to make it more difficult for us to operate over the next three years," the finance director added.
He used the patrol officers' contract as an example.
The city wanted to give the officers a 5 percent raise over three years, with no pay raise the first year.
An arbitrator, however, ruled for the 9 percent pay raises.
Bozanich said the overall cost of the new contracts may end up costing some city workers their jobs.
"The possibility of layoffs definitely hasn't been ruled out," the finance director said.
Council also approved a five-year deal with Thermal Ventures II, formerly doing business as Youngstown Thermal, for 5 percent increases beginning this year, and continuing through Jan. 1, 2008. There was no increase for 2004.
The company, which has headquarters on Champion Street, had sought a one-year, 15 percent increase last year, saying its costs of natural gas, water, coal and employee benefits continue rising.
The company provides steam heat for commercial and industrial businesses downtown.
The city regulates the prices the company can charge for that service.
Carmen Conglose Jr., deputy director of public works, and members of council's Public Utilities Committee researched the matter, consulted state law and determined that rate increases are granted in five-year increments.
Conglose said he met with Thermal Ventures representatives to look over their costs and how they run their operation. The five-year plan then was worked out.
Backpay to city
Conglose also found out something else in his research.
Thermal Ventures pays the city a franchise fee to serve as the exclusive provider for steam heat. That fee is $5,000 a year. The company, however, had not paid the fee since 1994, which means the Thermal owes the city $50,000.
Conglose said the deal calls for Thermal Ventures to receive the yearly increases contingent upon the payment of those back fees.