Highland News Leader

City Council approves first agreement with new Highland Police Department sergeants union

The Highland City Council on Monday unanimously approved its first-ever collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police’s sergeants bargaining unit.

The three-year contract will begin on May 1 and end on April 30, 2018.

According to terms of the accord, HPD’s four sergeants will get a 1.2 percent pay increase in 2015, 1.4 percent pay increase in 2016, and a 1 percent pay hike in in 2017.

In recent years, sergeants, who are paid hourly, received about a 2.5 percent pay increase annually, according to Police Chief Terry Bell.

The sergeants will now receive an additional $800 if they have a bachelor’s degree, and $1,500 if they have a master’s degree in the second and third years of the contract.

Currently, Sgt. Aric Steinbeck and Sgt. Scott Athmer have master’s degrees. Sgt. Gary Sellers and Sgt. Carl Schlarmann have bachelor’s degrees.

Under the new contract, sergeants will also have the option of working two holidays over the next three years. If a sergeants work a holiday, they will be paid at an overtime rate.

In the past, the sergeants were never assigned to work on holidays, Bell said.

In addition, sergeants will receive an additional $450 uniform-cleaning allowance, annually. In the past, sergeants paid out of their own pockets to have their uniforms cleaned.

As in the past, sergeants (and patrolman) will receive a $500 annual clothing allowance.

Bell said the sergeants approached him about starting the union around the start of the year. It became possible only after Lt. Chris Conrad was promoted from sergeant last year, Bell said. Under his new role, Conrad accepted new leadership duties within the police department, which has 20 officers.

Bell said he met with the FOP only two or three occasions before a deal was reached with the sergeants.

In other news:

• The City Council unanimously approved the 2015-16 budget. The budget for the next fiscal year plans a 7.3 percent decrease in spending over the the current year, but still falls $877,000 short of revenues meeting expenses. A transfer from reserve cash will make up the difference.

The city is projecting to spend $47.4 million in the next year, down from $51.1 million from the current year.

The budget decrease is due mainly to work being completed on various street projects and that construction of the Veterans Honor Parkway (the northeast portion of the city’s peripheral route) is nearing completion, City Manager Mark Latham said.

However, next year’s budget anticipates a 5 percent increase in general operating and maintenance expenditures for the city, while projecting an 8 percent decrease in operating revenues. The revenue decrease is mostly due to large projects being completed for which the city received large amounts of grant money.

All other revenue streams are predicted to increase.