City nears contract with police officersThe city of Superior has reached a tentative agreement with its police union.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The city of Superior has reached a tentative agreement with its police union.
Under the terms of the agreement recommended for council approval by the Human Resources Committee this week, officers will pay a larger share for health insurance and pensions — although not quite as large a share as counterparts working in other departments within the city.
Under Wisconsin Act 10, which stripped most public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights, police officers and firefighters were exempt from the new budget repair law passed last year. Public employees are required to pay 5.8 percent of their salary toward pension benefits through the Wisconsin retirement system.
Starting the day after the contract is approved by the council, officers in the union would begin paying 3 percent of their salaries toward pension benefits, with the city paying for the rest for the rest of the year. At the start of 2013, all employees of the city, including police officers, will pay 5.8 percent.
Police will also see an increase in their share of health insurance costs, but still less than other public employees. While the city previously paid 95 percent of the health insurance costs for a single plan, the city’s share will drop to 90 percent, the share the city previously paid for family and employee plus one plans for officers hired since Feb. 1, 2004.
Unlike city contract agreements reached with public works and other non-public safety employees, however, police will receive a bump in pay over the next two years.
Wages for union-represented police officers will increase 3 percent when the council adopts the agreement, and another 2.9 percent starting Jan. 1.
After the city budgeted for no pay increases for any city employee, the contract will have consequences for the police department.
Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse is holding three positions open — including the assistant police chief position he previously held — to make up for a shortfall in the police department budget.
Finance Director Jean Vito said the police department has to find $226,000 in savings each year for 2012-2013 budget to accommodate the contract increases unaccounted for in the city’s two-year budget.
The city budgeted police and fire department budgets similarly to other departments, including no salary increase for staff and concessions in health insurance and retirement payments — in spite of both departments being exempt from those requirements outlined in Act 10 and force on other employees.
LaGesse said he plans to keep the assistant chief position open for two years, and not fill two vacancies in the patrol division to meet the budget shortfall.
“It does have an impact on overtime,” LaGesse said. “However, overtime expenditures are not as great as the salary and benefits of an employee.” He said it does put pressure on the overtime budget, but the overall impact is savings.
“It’s a sacrifice on our officers’ part because they end up working more overtime than they wish to work,” LaGesse said.
Despite the reduction in manpower, the chief said there is no plan to reduce the police presence in the city.
“The services that we provide to the community have not been impacted,” LaGesse said.
Wisconsin Professional Police Association Local 27 — the Superior Police Department Union has ratified the contract, which is expected to go to the Superior City Council on June. 12.