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Published: Tuesday, 7/7/2009

Toledo police pact could cost city $2.89 million in 2011

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A new contract with the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association would cost the city $2.89 million in 2011 if the city's other unions receive the same deal, officials said Monday.

Toledo City Council will vote Tuesday on the new three-year contract, which was narrowly ratified by police union members last week.

Councilman Joe McNamara, who is expected to be appointed council president Tuesday, urged his colleagues to approve the agreement. It needs seven affirmative votes from council to pass.

"We basically need the savings and we need the savings extrapo-lated across the other bargaining units and we need to move on," Mr. McNamara said. "If we reject the contract, then it puts labor negotiations in a state of limbo for many more months to come."

The tentative contract requires that patrol officers pay into their own pension plan for six months, freezes wages for two years, and requires officers for the first time to pay a portion of their health-insurance costs.

But it grants a 3.5 percent pay increase in 2011.

That pay hike could later be sought for inclusion in new contracts negotiated with the Toledo Police Command Officers Association and Local 92 Firefighters.

Additionally, Toledo's contract with Local 7 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the city's largest union, is supposed to get a 2 percent raise in 2011. Because the contract includes a "me too" clause, Local 7 could get the higher 3.5 percent that year.

Mr. McNamara, along with Councilmen Lindsay Webb, Wilma Brown, D. Michael Collins, and George Sarantou said they would vote in favor of the contract. Councilman Phillip Copeland said he is "strongly leaning toward it."

Mike Craig and Michael Ashford said they were undecided.

Steve Steel, president of the Toledo Board of Education, who is favored to be appointed to council today to replace Mark Sobczak, refused to say how he might vote.

"I am leaning in one direction, but I am not going to say," Mr. Steel said. "I have been lobbied for both ways."

Betty Shultz has been ill and will not be present for the meeting.

Councilman Frank Szollosi said he is "leaning against it," because he is concerned about the combined impact of the contract and the federal COPS grant the city wants to rehire some laid-off officers. By taking that money, the city would not be able to reduce its police manpower any further.

Councilman Tom Waniewski said he would vote against the contract.

"It doesn't bring any officers who were laid off back to the streets, the pension rollback is for only six months, and it will be a $838,000 cost in 2011," Mr. Waniewski said. "The 2009 concession is only 6.3 percent while many others in the city - the classified exempts, the council aides - have given up 10 percent."

In exchange for the half-year partial pension pickup, the patrolmen get an additional 6 1/2 vacation days through Dec. 31.

Mr. Waniewski said the city would save about $5 million through the end of 2009 if all the other unions agree to the same concessions.

"The city has a $12.5 million deficit and I am not going to strap $7.5 million onto the taxpayers," he said. "The normal Joe is going to get burdened again and I hate to see that."

The Finkbeiner administration is still asking council to approve cutting the 100 percent tax credit given to Toledo residents who work and pay taxes in another city, and raising the trash-pickup fee to help make up the difference with the deficit.

After the first six months under the proposed police contract, the city would resume making the entire 10 percent employee share of the pension payment, which is on top of the employer's contribution of 19.5 percent. Any newly hired police officers would have to pay the full 10 percent of the employee's pension share.

The Finkbeiner administration also agreed in the contract to pay patrolmen a 2 percent lump-sum bonus in April, 2010, if the city's 2009 income tax receipts exceed $148 million; 4.5 percent if the collections exceed $150 million; 7 percent if taxes rise above $152.5 million, and 9 percent if collections exceed $155 million.

The tentative contract defers all overtime payments for the remainder of 2009 until March 1, 2010, but police officers may choose to take compensatory time instead of banking their overtime.

Mr. Ashford said that deferment would not be wise.

"How are we going to pay overtime next March? Overtime is almost double from 2008 so how can you budget for that?" Mr. Ashford asked. "The police are taking a zero percent pay increase and I applaud them for that, but to me, this is Carty's official announcement that he is not running for re-election and doesn't care what's going to happen next year."

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner warned council against rejecting the contract, which would leave the labor agreement in the hands of fact-finder Harry Graham.

Mr. Finkbeiner said a fact-finder report in Cincinnati gave that police department pay raises in each year of a three-year contract.

If a fact-finder report is issued and then rejected by either side, the matter would go to conciliation, which could run into 2010.

Mr. Sarantou, chairman of council's finance committee, said the contract depends on a rebound to the sluggish economy.

"If the tax receipts don't increase, I would say there would definitely be layoffs and that's why I am taking my time," he said. "This is not a perfect agreement by any stretch. It has its risks on both sides, but you have the risk of the fact-finder coming back with a worse deal."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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