FORT PIERCE — City commissioners approved a collective bargaining agreement Monday night between the city and the International Union of Police Associations, which gives police officers their first pay raise since 2007.
The contract covers the period of Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 30, 2015, for officers. A contractual agreement for sergeants and lieutenants in the department was approved in November.
“This is a huge step in the right direction,” Police Chief Sean Baldwin said.
Commissioner Tom Perona said the long process of negotiating the contract “is a success for the City of Fort Pierce,” and Mayor Linda Hudson said the approval of the contract was fitting at this time because it is Law Enforcement Week.
The agreement involves about 90 officers in the police department. The negotiated new salary schedule would normally cost the city about $165,800 for this year’s budget and $279,080 next year, but there is a $290,000 surplus in the police department’s 2012 budget because of cost-saving changes.
No additional funds are needed for the salary increases in the three-year agreement because of department reductions, which included the elimination of a captain’s position, not hiring vacancies that have occurred during the past two years and cost-cutting measures in technology and communications areas, Baldwin said.
The agreement makes the pay structure more competitive with neighboring agencies, he said. Starting salaries for police officers will be $35,172 in the first year and move up to $36,000 and $39,000 in the succeeding years. The average Fort Pierce officer salary is still behind other agencies, Baldwin said.
“We lost some incredible assets for the community in the last year and a half,” Baldwin noted. Pay deficiencies were cited as a primary reason 13 police officers left the department during that time. Nine of the 13 officers took jobs with the Port St. Lucie Police Department or Martin County Sheriff’s Office and reported receiving $10,000 to $14,000 increases in base salary, Baldwin stated in a city memo in October.
The officers who left were top performers with two winning Officer of the Year awards in 2010 and 2011 and nine being qualified specialists in the detective, traffic or SWAT fields.
Baldwin pointed out that every time an officer leaves the department it costs $30,000 to $50,000 to recruit and train a new officer, adding that it would cost the city and taxpayers more money not to provide the pay increase.
A cap on maximum retirement benefits at 75 percent is also part of the new contract. Accumulated vacation time and sick leave will not be calculated in the retirement formula to reduce costs, Baldwin said.
Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/may/20/fort-pierce-commission-approves-police-contract/