Ruling’s Costs Add Up Quickly
Retroactive Pay Increases?For City Police Officers Add Up To More?Than $800K Over Three Years
Last month, the Jamestown City Council approved appealing a decision made by the arbitration panel awarding Jamestown Police Department employees a retroactive 2 percent salary increase for 2016 and 2017.
The approved resolution stated the council appealed the ruling because it was in violation of their fiduciary duty to the citizens of Jamestown to comply with an award that violates the arbitration statute that is supposed to weigh the ability for the municipality to pay.
According to state civil service law, 70 percent of the arbitration panel’s decision is supposed to be based on the ability for a municipality to pay. Given Jamestown’s poor fiscal standing, the council believes this statute didn’t weigh into the decision made by the arbitrators who approved the pay increase.
In October, the three-member arbitration panel released their split decision, 2-1, on the issue of a 2 percent pay increase, with independent arbitrator Howard Foster and John Crotty, police union representative, siding with the police and Todd Thomas, city clerk and administrative services director who represented the city, who provided the dissenting opinion.
How would a 2 percent salary increase for police department employees impact the city’s budget? According to financial information produced by city officials provided to the The Post-Journal, which filed a Freedom Of Information Law request, the city would have to pay an additional $839,532 for 2016 through 2019. The calculation also doesn’t include possible future increase in salary for police officers for 2018 and 2019.
For 2016, the net increase for the city to award the 2 percent salary increase would be $143,554. For 2017, the cost to the city would be $266,426.
The impact on the 2018 budget, which would only include the salary increase for 2016 and 2017, the net cost to the city would be $196,697. The 2019 budget impact of the 2 percent increase for 2016 and 2017 would be $232,855.
How would the city, which has already hit its constitutional tax limit, pay an additional $840,000 to Jamestown Police Department employees for 2016 through 2019? Well according to Joseph Bellitto, city comptroller, as of the end of 2017 the city had an unassigned fund balance, or savings, of $1,849,932, which is lower than state recommended levels for a municipality with a $36 million budget.
Even though there is enough in the unassigned fund balance to cover just the 2 percent pay increase for 2016 and 2017 for police employees based on the arbitration panel decision, there are still several other unknowns city officials have to factor into their overall financial situation.
One is that the council will most likely exceed its $250,000 contingency fund for 2018. Because of several emergency repairs and situations throughout city government during the year, Monday the council will vote to purchase a new trackless vehicle for $138,000, which will exceed the emergency spending fund by $95,000. Bellitto and Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, earlier this month believe city officials will be able to make up the difference for the trackless vehicle through the over/under account.
The over/under account is a process city officials go through at the end of the year to calculate each line item in the budget to determine if they are over or under budget. City officials then calculate the final over/under amount to discover if they have spent more or less than the revenues they received throughout the year.
Bellitto said at this point, with only a few weeks left in the year, whether the city will be over or under during 2018 will depend on how much revenue they received in the final three months of the year.
“Right now, you know on the revenue side, it boils down to the fourth quarter sales tax,” Bellitto said. “For the first three quarters we’ve been pretty good. I’m pretty confident we will meet the sales tax budget, if not exceed it by a fair amount. On the revenue side, I’m expecting things to be good.”
On the expenditure side, Bellitto said the budget is in line with expectations. He said salaries are on budget, department spending has, for the most part, been what was projected and employee benefits are currently under budget, but that can change depending how many insurance claims are filed by the end of the year, which city officials won’t know the final total until the second quarter of 2019.
“We are in pretty decent shape,” Bellitto said for the 2018 budget.
Even though the 2018 budget doesn’t appear as of now like it will significantly lower the city’s unassigned fund balance, city officials still have to factor in potential pay increase for the Jamestown Fire Department, who might also file the necessary paperwork to go to binding arbitration with the city. Also, as of the start of 2019, all six city employee collective bargaining units will be without a contract.
CITY COLLECTIVE BARGAINING UNIT AGREEMENTS
The last contract agreement reached between city officials and collective bargaining units was in June 2015 when the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 418 and the Civil Service Employees Association local 1000 signed a contract that will expire at the start of 2019. The contract was for seven years, retroactively starting in 2012 and will expire Dec. 31.
The AFSCME unit represents parks and public works employees. The CSEA represents clerical staff and engineers. Terms in both contracts were almost identical. Employees in both units did not receive retroactive salary increases in 2012, 2013 or 2014. In 2015, AFSCME and CSEA employees received a .5 percent increase; in 2016 a 2 percent jump in pay; 2017 a 2.25 percent raise; and in 2018 a 2.25 percent salary boost.
Another important aspect of the contract agreement with AFSCME and CSEA, from the perspective of city officials and taxpayers, that as of 2015, new employees hired to work for the city in the unions would not be included in the city’s self-insured insurance plan once they reach Medicare eligibility. This stipulation is important for city officials who have budgeted more than $7 million to pay for health insurance cost in the 2019 budget, with city government paying more than $2.2 million in 2017 for the 300 retirees still included in the plan.
The last contract agreement between city officials and the Jamestown City Administrative Association was in July 2014. The two units of the JCAA, with one representing Jamestown Urban Renewal Agency employees and the second representing mid-level managers and some clerical workers, had been operating without a new contract since 2012 when they reached their last agreement four years ago. The contract was for five years and expired at the end of 2016. The contract called for zero percent salary increases for 2012 and 2013; a 1.5 percent salary jump for 2014; and 2 percent raises for 2015 and 2016.
The Jamestown Professional Firefighters Association Local 1772 and the Kendall Club Police Benevolent Association last contract agreement with city officials happened in December 2013. The contract included a retroactive 2 percent pay increase for 2012 and a zero percent increase in 2013. For 2014 and 2015, the employee salaries for both unions increased to 2.75 percent.
Besides the salary increases, the agreement between city and police and fire officials was the first to include the health care wellness program. Members who participated in the program paid a lower premium compared to those who didn’t. Following this agreement, the four other city unions also agreed to the health care wellness program.