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Published: Wednesday, 5/18/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Mayor ends forced police concessions

More taxes help restore command officers' pact

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Mayor Mike Bell imposed the concessions under 'exigent circumstances' last year. Mayor Mike Bell imposed the concessions under 'exigent circumstances' last year.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Citing a rebound in city tax revenues and a desire for fairness, Mayor Mike Bell announced Wednesday that he would end the concessions imposed on the Toledo police command officers' union during last year's fiscal crisis.

The move would restore the contract of the Toledo Police Command Officers Association, including having city taxpayers pay the full 10 percent employee share of the pension contribution.

Toledo City Council, which imposed the concessions under so-called ''exigent circumstances'' in March, 2010, will be asked to vote to restore the command officers' contract on May 31.

Mr. Bell said in a statement issued by his office -- just as he was embarking on a nine-day economic development mission to China -- that the city's revenues have recovered enough to end the emergency situation.

During the first quarter of 2011, the city has had a 7 percent increase in income tax revenues over the same period in 2010.

"We have taken measures to control costs and must continue to do so in the future as we negotiate the next round of contracts for our employees," Mr. Bell said. "Nonetheless, for the remainder of the fiscal year, we hope to continue to rebound economically.

"I believe we need to demonstrate that we value the service and dedication our officers bring to the job each day," he said. "This isn't punitive and we're now in a position financially to restore their contract, so we will."

The news was welcomed by the president of the union, which represents 125 sergeants, lieutenants, and captains.

Lt. Dan Schultz said the union reserves the right to continue appealing the unilateral concessions. On Tuesday, TPCOA voted down an offer by the city to restore the contract retroactively to April 28 if the union would drop its appeals.

"I do applaud the decision to stop the exigent circumstances against the TPCOA and I'm sure it will benefit both sides on working together in the future," the lieutenant said.

Council voted March 30, 2010, to unilaterally impose concessions on all city unions because of exigent circumstances: a threatened $48 million deficit. That declaration required all unions to pick up the cost of their pensions for the remainder of their contracts.

However, most of the unions negotiated memos of understanding that spared them from having to pick up the full 10 percent pension contribution. For the most part those concessions ended Dec. 31. Members of Teamsters Local 20 were exempted because they were then in negotiations.

TPCOA appealed to the State Employment Relations Board, which ruled against them on a 2-1 vote April 28. The command officers' union has filed an appeal in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

City Councilman D. Michael Collins said he was prepared to introduce his own ordinance to end exigent circumstances on Tuesday but held off because he knew the union members were voting on the administration's offer.

"My legislation would have been exactly what the mayor's actions today accomplished. I sincerely hope we can start on a path of rebuilding relationships because clearly within the police ranks there is a lack of confidence in the administration," Mr. Collins said.

Ending the so-called "pension pickup" that began showing up in city union contracts since the 1980s has been a goal of Mr. Bell, but getting it done has been a struggle. Recent contracts have grandfathered in the pension pickups for existing union members, but required new hires to pay the employee share.

A new state law, Senate Bill 5, passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Gov. John Kasich, prohibits cities from paying the employee share of their pensions.

Public employee unions in Ohio, however, are conducting a signature drive to put a referendum on the ballot in November to repeal the law.

Mr. Bell's deputy mayor for operations, Stephen Herwat, testified in support of reforming collective bargaining laws during public hearings on Senate Bill 5 in February.

Mr. Herwat said Wednesday that picking up the employees' share of the pension contributions will cost the city $11.4 million in 2011. He said the mayor offered to restore the pension pickup for the police command officers through the end of their contract, which expires Dec. 31, for fairness reasons and to show appreciation for the work they do.

State pension funds charge an employer share and an employee share. The employers' shares range from 14 percent for nonuniformed city employees to 19.5 percent for police officers and command officers and 24 percent for firefighters and fire command officers.

The employee share is 10 percent for all groups of employees.

Under existing contracts, the city picks up the full employee share for grandfathered employees in American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7; the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association; TPCOA; Toledo Firefighters Local 92; and the Toledo Fire Chiefs Association.

The city pays 7 percentage points of the employee share for Teamsters Local 20; 8.5 percent for Toledo Municipal Court employees and exempt employees; and 5 percent for executive exempt employees.

City council members, the mayor, and newly hired employees pay the full 10 percent.

The administration has also been trying to shift some of the cost of health-care insurance to the employees.

Except for the fire command officers union, all city employees pay on a formula of $25 per month for single coverage, $40 for an additional person, and $55 for a family. The city's cost varies from $704 a month for Teamsters members to $1,127 monthly for executive exempt employees, with everyone else in between.

Under exigent circumstances, police command officers who were paid $70,000 or less paid monthly rates of $105 for single coverage, $125 for two, and $145 for a family. The rates for those paid more than $70,000 was $140, $160, and $180, respectively.

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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