Orchard Park decided the town's police officers deserved a pay raise to make up for three years with no increase.
It's part of looking at "fair market value" by examining what officers in comparable departments make, which lead town negotiator and Town Board Member Michael Sherry calls "the assiduous and thorough mining of comparative data."
With that in mind, the Town Board last week approved a five-year contract, retroactive to 2016, with the Police Benevolent Association. At the same meeting, the board rescinded a contract with the blue-collar unit that imposed no increase, and gave workers a 2 percent raise beginning in 2015. Negotiations are to continue with the blue-collar unit.
The cumulative effect for police is about a 19 percent raise over five years. Officers agreed to increase their contribution to heath insurance costs from 5 percent to 8.5 percent, although officers hired in recent years will pay 10 percent of the cost. The starting salary for a police officer will go from $46,400 in 2015 to $51,500 in January, and $55,500 in 2020. Experienced officers will see an increase in salary from $74,700 in 2015 to $84,100 in January and $90,500 in 2020.
Sherry said the police provide a number of services that are not offered by departments of similar size or larger.
"We are one of the safest communities to live in New York State. Surely our policing efforts contribute to that assessment and ranking," he said.
In the last contract, the PBA agreed to take no raises for three years because the town was still feeling the impact of the national and international financial crisis that began in 2008. Police had two years of a 3.25 percent increase, then no raise the past two years while the contract was being negotiated.
That left Orchard Park Police officers receiving a salary that was $7,000 to $8,000 less than officers in comparable departments, Sherry said.
Blue-collar workers in the highway department also took two years of no raises in their last contract, and have been without a new contract for three years, Sherry said. Last month, the board imposed a one-year contract for 2015 with no raise on the union after both sides failed to approve a fact finder's recommendations on a new contract.
Sherry said he was uncomfortable taking that action. He said further investigation found that the board could impose the contract with a raise. On Wednesday the Town Board imposed a one-year contract with a 2 percent raise and Sherry apologized to workers for the earlier contract.
Sherry said he hopes to resume negotiations with the blue-collar union in January. He also will be negotiating with the Command Officers Association on a new contract in January.