By Denise Dick
BOARDMAN — A co-director of the union representing township police patrol officers says union members have done their part to ease township financial problems.
Union members and the township signed a new contract last month, effective Jan. 1, 2009, through Dec. 31, 2011.
“The union agreed to reduce the starting wage for new hires by $6 with the hope the township hires additional officers,” said Mike Longo, co-director of the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union representing the township’s 34 patrol officers.
The new wage scale is both tiered and elongated, Longo explained. Rather than 10 pay steps under the old agreement, the new pact includes 14 steps.
Under the previous contract, a new officer was hired at $22.01 per hour and could earn $29.38 per hour with 25 years’ service.
With the latest agreement, a new hire will earn $16 per hour and can reach the $29.38- per-hour level after 14 steps and 22 years.
Township Administrator Jason Loree said the new pact will help.
“I think it’s very significant,” he said. “It cuts a lot of our costs for personnel, which will allow us to potentially hire some new police officers in the future.”
Loree said there’s been some discussion among trustees of hiring two new patrol officers, although no decision has been made.
“This new contract will help with cutting our costs to be able to do that,” he said.
Union members also will pay a 10 percent health-insurance contribution, up from about 7.5 percent, which is uncapped. Patrol officers also “agreed to eliminate a previously agreed-to provision granting all officers a minimum of three paid holidays per year in exchange for three personal days each at straight time,” the union co-director said.
That’s important, Loree said, because personal days are paid on straight time as opposed to the overtime rate for holidays.
Though pay steps remain, the contract doesn’t offer a cost-of-living increase through 2011.
Vacation-day accrual also is tiered for new hires. Officers hired under the new agreement would get two weeks’ vacation for years one through seven; three weeks for between eight and 15 years’ service; four weeks for years 16 through 24; and five weeks after 25 years.
Officers already on the payroll are grandfathered with the previous vacation schedule that called for 10 vacation days for officers with one to five years; 15 days for between six and 11 years; 20 days for 12 years; 21 days for 13 and 14 years with a day added for each subsequent year up to 35 days for 28 years.
The latest contract also reduces from 11 to 10 the number of paid holidays, eliminating the day after Thanksgiving as a paid holiday.
Members also “agreed to allow the township to determine the size and composition of its ranking officers,” Longo said. “Rather than mandating 17 total supervisory officers — two captains, four lieutenants, 11 sergeants — we agreed to set a limitation on requiring only eight sergeant slots. All other slots could be reorganized or eliminated at the discretion of the township.”
Loree said another change is service credit for new hires. An officer hired from another department will receive credit for those years in his or her township pay.
Previously a new hire started at the bottom of the pay scale regardless of his or her years with another department.
Longo said that will enable the township to attract experienced employees.