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Amherst police get new contract

Police in Amherst have received a new five-year contract that includes annual raises of at least 2 percent but requires the department’s entire rank-and-file to start chipping in for health insurance.

The Town Board on Monday unanimously approved the contract with the Amherst Police Club, which represents 151 sworn officers.

The contract – retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013 – includes 2 percent raises in 2013, 2014 and 2015; a 2.75 percent raise in 2016; and another 2 percent in 2017, said Robert P. McCarthy, the town’s director of human resources.

Police also will see longevity payments increase by $100 at each step this year, and another $100 a step in 2017.

In return, police beginning in 2016 will contribute $300 toward single-coverage health insurance, while those with family coverage will pay $750.

Officers had been paying a percentage of their health insurance for only the first four years on the force. Under this new agreement, McCarthy said, all of the officers will continue to pay a flat rate. That would raise total health insurance contributions to nearly $100,000 a year compared to roughly $19,000 annually, said Councilmember Guy R. Marlette, who helped negotiate the contract for the town.

For current officers, their health insurance contribution would cease upon retiring, but for those hired after Jan. 1., 2016, those payments would continue even after retirement.

Police also agreed to pay more for co-pays and prescriptions.

The town has been setting aside money in anticipation of a new contract, officials said. This year, for example, the new police agreement is expected to cost Amherst an additional $969,000, according to figures from the Comptroller’s Office.

It was important that the agreement include more employee contribution for rising health insurance costs to help ease the financial burden on the town, Marlette said.

The contract was ratified by the Amherst Police Club on March 6, with more than 90 percent voting in favor, Marlette said.

“I think the town recognizes and appreciates the services our officers provide,” said Police Union President Edward W. Guzdek Jr., “and we understand and appreciate the town’s budget process. We’re taxpayers and residents, as well.”

The last police contract expired Dec. 31, 2010. After arbitration, the two sides have been at the bargaining table to work out a new contract.