New Police Contract
The Township’s contract with PBA Local 340, the union of Harding’s police force, has historically been one of the most important financial decisions the Township Committee can make because of the relative size of the PD payroll and the long term implications due to the post-retirement benefits covered by the contract. After about a year of negotiations, the Township and the PBA concluded an Agreement to cover the term from 1/1/13 to 12/13/16.
The contract calls for a 1.95% annual increase in salary. The prior contract had increases of 3.75 to 4.1%.
In 2014, a patrol officer with seven years on the job will have a base salary of $112, 347. All of Harding officers, except two are at this top step. However, going forward, it will take 15 years for an office (hired after June 1, 2014) to reach the top step. Probationary officers (in their first year of service) have a base pay of $45,219.
In addition, officers get a “longevity increment” for time of service. As an example, an officer with 5-8 years of service receives and additional 3% ($2.8 to 3.4K). The prior contract’s longevity increment was $775. These longevity increment percentages rise 0.25% every 3 years and cap out at 4%.
In addition, a patrolman who is the senior officer on a shift will be paid an increment because they are “acting in a supervisory capacity.” In this case they are paid as a sergeant for those hours.
In addition, the Township reimburses eligible tuition cost and then pays an annual “stipend” (salary increment) to a member who earns an associate ($1500) or bachelors ($2500) degree. Prior contract called for stipends of $300 and $600.
Officers are entitled to vacation. For 1-4 years of service – two weeks (actually 80 hours). For 5-9 years – 3 weeks (120 hours). For 10-14 years – 4 weeks (160 hours). For 15 years – 5 weeks (200 hours). A new provision versus prior contracts says that a maximum of 48 hours of vacation can be carried over to the next calendar year and time carried over must be used not later than May 1 of the following year.
As under the prior contract, there are 14 paid holidays – New Year’s Day, MLK Birthday, Lincoln Birthday, Washington Birthday, Good Friday, Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Friday after Thanksgiving, Christmas.
Sick Leave: Officers are entitled to paid sick leave of 144 hours per year, cumulative to a max of 2400 hours. “Sick leave is to be used exclusively for sickness.” Doctor’s certificate shall be provided if requested. A new provision in the contract allows PBA members to transfer their accrued sick leave (up to a max of 96 hours) to another member who has exhausted their entire bank of time. Sick leave (up to max of 48 hours) can be used to care for sick family immediate members. Upon retirement, officers will receive payment for unused sick leave at a 1 to 3 rate up to a maximum of 144 hours.
In addition, the contract allows for funeral leave and personal leave. No reason need be given for personal leave for up to 24 hours per year.
The so-called 4/4 twelve schedule is unchanged. Officers work 12 hour shifts for four days and then have four days off. Overtime is earned if the shift goes beyond 12 hours.
Big Change to Health Insurance: Perhaps the most important change in the agreement is all active members will be enrolled in a “high deductible health insurance plan.” Data shown at prior TC meetings over the years showed that health insurance costs was the area where Harding was paying much more than surrounding towns – over $40K per family covered due to having no deductible. The new plan has a $1,500 for a single member and $3,000 for a family. The plan for the PBA is the same one that all other fulltime township employees use.
Importantly, in terms of future financial impact, there will be no retiree healthcare benefit for officers hired after July 2013. In 2014, Harding will pay $316K for retiree healthcare – officers and their families. This number will continue to grow as officers retire (eligible after 25 years of service) but will flatten out after about 10 years given life expectancy and the new policy.
As in the past there is a dental plan covers which orthodontia with a $1000 deductible.
A new feature of this contract is that members can establish a Health Savings Account. Harding will provide a 50% match to the maximum allowable by federal law.
The contract made no change to benefits, pensions or healthcare, for retired officers.
Stepping back and looking at the impact of this contract over the long term it appears that the agreement does a number of things: (1) brings current healthcare costs more in line with neighboring towns; (2) pays more to current PBA members ; and (3) “bends the curve” downward of future retiree healthcare costs, IF future Township Committees don’t backslide.