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Police & Fire

Toledo fire, AFSCME unions will see three years of raises

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    Gear for about 40 firefighters hangs ready for use Friday, August 17, 2018, at Station No. 5 in Toledo.

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    Firefighter Paramedic Rian Whiteny takes down information for a potential call while working on Life Squad 1 Friday, August 17, 2018, at Station No. 5 in Toledo.

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    Toledo firefighter Miguel Castillo, left, and Lt. Eric Ellis work together to check the radios inside the diving gear for the water rescue unit Friday, August 17, 2018, at Station No. 5 in Toledo.

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Toledo City Council unanimously approved contracts with two unions Tuesday, though not without discussion about the impact pay increases will have on the city’s general fund.

Members of Toledo Firefighters Local 92 and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 2058 will receive base pay increases in each of the agreements’ three years. The parties agreed to a 1.5 percent base pay increase in the first year, a 2.5 percent increase in the second, and a 3 percent increase in the third.

Several councilmen expressed concerns about how much of a dent the contractual raises will make in the city’s general fund, though all ultimately voted in favor of both agreements.

Local 2058 represents 225 employees, mainly professional, technical, and supervisory workers across several city divisions. Their contract had expired May 31, and membership ratified the new agreement Aug. 22.

Local 92 includes more than 500 firefighters, paramedics, lieutenants, and captains. Their previous contract expired Dec. 31, and membership ratified the new agreement Aug. 23.

Much of council’s discussion Tuesday centered on Toledo firefighters because public safety expenditures account for about 67 percent of the city’s $255.2 million general fund.

“This will be a year that we can afford this, but in subsequent years it’s going to be a challenge,” Councilman Tom Waniewski said. “We’ve gone a long way in getting our budget process in line. ... I think what bothers me most about the contract is it nullifies what we’ve done from a budget perspective.”

Councilman Sandy Spang also touched on the sentiment of preserving the general fund balance, but she said city officials need to tackle the uptick in firefighters sent to medical calls. In 2017, the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department exceeded 60,000 runs for the first time, and 89 percent of those were for emergency medical service.

“Obviously, as the cost of first responders increases it becomes an ever-larger part of our budget, and we need to be addressing that. But we also need to be addressing the root cause of that: the unsustainable escalation in calls to our firefighters,” Ms. Spang said. “We’ve got exhausted, strained firefighters.”

Local 92 President Jeff Koenigseker said he was “relieved” the contract was approved.

“I think council recognized the work we do to support the citizens of Toledo and the fact that we’re working harder than we ever have,” he said.

RELATED: Toledo Fire and Rescue logs high overtime costs

Private Koenigseker said he isn’t worried about the next round of negotiations, even though several council members emphasized the need to be increasingly prudent with general fund money.

“I think the next go-around will be even better,” he said. “Toledo has experienced the highest income tax receipts we ever have. ... We need to compensate and retain quality firefighters.”

Maintaining attractive wages is one reason Councilman Gary Johnson cited for supporting the latest collective bargaining agreements.

“I understand the constraints of the budget. We have to remain competitive. We have to make sure that we can attract the best of the best,” he said. “Here’s a novel idea: Instead of trying to shrink the cost to meet the budget, why don’t we grow the revenue to meet the costs? That’s the way we should do things.”

Council in April approved a three-year contract with the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, which has about 483 members, that includes the same pay raises as the agreements approved Tuesday. That contract also had expired Dec. 31.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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