By Patricia Meade
Offering $10,000 less would make it difficult to recruit, the union president said.
YOUNGSTOWN — Mayor Jay Williams said he’ll hire three police officers for every two who retire if the patrol union agrees to a reduced starting salary.
Williams said what he has proposed is a hiring plan similar to one agreed to by firefighters. He said the salary step plan, if accepted, would put more officers on the streets.
New firefighters’ starting salary of $24,000 has not changed but they do not get raises given to current employees and now take 10 years instead of five to get to top pay of $52,500, said Kyle Miasek, deputy finance director. “They have been very cooperative; they cannot be commended enough; that needs to be stressed,” he said, adding the savings over the first year will be $800,000 to $900,000.
The firefighters’ plan was agreed to in August, Miasek said.
The administration would like to negotiate a similar 10-step program for police, Miasek said. The proposal for contract negotiations is for new officers to be paid $28,000 and reach maximum pay of $53,000 over 10 years, he said.
Under the current contract, new officers are paid $38,900 and reach the top pay of $54,380 after five years, Miasek said.
He said there’s a lot of overtime pay to be made for those who want it. For 2008, police overtime was $1.2 million, he said.
The mayor said 38 police officers are set to retire by 2011. The officers signed up for the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, which allows them to accumulate a lump sum for retirement. The DROP, which began in January 2003, requires participants to stay no longer than eight years after they join the plan.
If the city were to hire three for every two who retire, that would mean 57 new officers to replace the 38 leaving. Those leaving are at the top of the pay scale.
To consider discussing a reduced starting salary, the Youngstown Police Association would require a minimum staffing guarantee, said Patrolman Ed Colon, union president. Compared with 2002, when the patrol division had roughly 145 officers, it now has about 118, Colon said.
He said the minimum staffing requirement would be “at least” 142 officers plus a number sufficient to fill detective sergeant positions that are being eliminated through attrition. He said there will be a lot to discuss when the union contract expires in December, including buyouts that were offered to firefighters but not patrol officers.
In August, council approved legislation to abolish the number of ranking police officers from 66 to 39 through attrition. The reduction includes two captains, one lieutenant and 24 detective sergeants, Miasek said.
Capt. Kenneth Centorame, Youngstown Police Ranking Officers president, said his union will not agree to reducing the number of detective sergeants to 26 from 50, adding legal remedy is available.
Colon said taking a $10,000 cut to make the starting salary $28,000 would make it difficult to recruit new patrol officers. Also, because of the residency requirement, it might be difficult to entice those who are married with children and must consider the city school system.
“We have to have minimum staffing for our safety and safety of the community,” Colon said. “There also has to be incentive to come work here.”
He said the union is also concerned that patrol officers would be assigned to work done by detective sergeants but not have the pay to go with the assignment. “We need both — detectives and patrol officers,” he said.
The union president said after the attrition of detective sergeants, it could be 10 years before promotions to that rank become available.