Three-year pact agreed to by town and union bumps pay, town contributions to retirement plan.
Town commissioners on Tuesday approved a new contract for police officers that increases pay an average of about 3.5% annually but doesn’t move the local union members into the Florida Retirement System, a key sticking point in 2019 negotiations.
A majority of the department’s 15 police officers and sergeants had already voted to approve the three-year deal that would take effect Oct. 1 before commissioners took up the issue at their last meeting before their summer break. Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon unanimously ratified the deal.
Talks between the town and the Southwest Florida Police Benevolent Association resumed June 12 following an impasse in 2019 which largely focused on retirement plans. Union members sought to join a defined-benefit plan backed by the Florida Retirement System, similar to a traditional pension. The town offered to up its contributions to a defined-contribution 401(a) plan, the public-sector version of a private-sector 401(k) plan.
In November, the Town Commission convened an impasse-settlement hearing in which both the union and the town presented contract proposals. Commissioners sided with town management in a 7-0 vote.
Following members’ 8-6 rejection of the town's contract offer, the town imposed a one-year contract on the union with a new salary step plan, a salary increase and an increase to the town’s mandatory contribution to the 401(a) to 11% retroactive to Oct. 1, 2019. Pay increases under the imposed contract were made retroactive to Sept. 30, 2019.
The two sides also agreed to resume negotiations with the goal of a three-year contract to take effect in the next fiscal year.
On June 12, the town presented union negotiators with the same contract proposal offered in 2019. After initial discussions, two points were added to the proposal: a provision allowing for the vesting of employees’ town contributions to their 401(a) to the benefit of their beneficiary if they were killed in the line of duty and increasing pay for extra duty details to $50 an hour.
The annual wage increases average 3.5% over the three-year period for a total increase of 10.5%, or $96,100 over the life of the contract. According to the town, the extra costs of the proposed contract are factored into the proposed budget for the next fiscal year.
Actual wages paid to officers and sergeants in 2021 would range from $51,520 to $75,653, depending on length of service.
An officer at the first level of experience would make $47,633 in the first year of the contract. An officer with the same experience hired in the second or third years would make $49,299. An experienced officer's salary at the 12th step reaches a maximum of $75,861 by the end of the contract with similar gains in the other experience-based salary steps.
A sergeant at the first step of experience would make $68,250 in the first year of the deal and $70,639 in the final year. An experienced sergeant at the top of the pay range would make $92,972 by the end of the contract.
Among the contract’s key points:
- Retirement – The town adds a percentage point to contributions to the 401(A) defined contribution plan (12% in Year 1, 13% in Year 2) and continue to match employee’s voluntary contribution up to 3%. There will be no change in Year 3;
- Specialty pay for boat captain and detective $65 biweekly, four field training officers $50;
- Lump sum payout from holiday pay bank Oct. 1 of each year.
- Comp time substitution for overtime by agreement with the Police Chief.
- Medical Leave Payout – 50% paid on retirement or death. Maximum use of medical leave for personal leave for 12-hour employees from 24 to 36 hours.
- Town’s contribution to the Defined Contribution Plan shall be paid to the employees designated beneficiaries in the event of death while on duty in the line of duty regardless years of service with the town.
- Service pistol at separation after 10 years available for $200. After 15 years, it's free.
- Emergency leave up to 36 hours.
- Vacation – extra shift after 10 years of service
Police Chief Pete Cumming earlier this year announced his plan to retire on Sept. 30. No plan to replace him has been announced.