- October 20, 2021
In negotiations between the city government and the police union, police officers are concentrating on two issues: their pensions and their work week, according to the union’s attorney.
But wages were a point of contention between the two groups earlier this month.
During a May 3 bargaining session, the International Union of Police Associations, which represents Ormond Beach police officers, presented its wage increase proposal: Upping starting pay rate for officers to $26 an hour; a $4.72-per-hour increase for all department employees; a 7.5% salary increase retroactive to Oct. 1, 2022, as well as for the next two fiscal years; and a one-time 0.5% increase per each officer’s number of years of service to avoid salary compression.
The city stated in an email that the union’s proposal would add about $2 million to the city’s payroll expenses. The current base pay payroll costs are around $3 million a year, not including incentive pay, taxes or benefits.
“During this bargaining session, we had our first discussion regarding pay, and this is a standard part of the negotiation process,” the city stated. “We want to make it clear that we have the utmost respect and appreciation for our officers. Historically, through negations, we’ve been able to achieve balance between providing support and resources for our officers and ensuring fiscal responsibility for the city.”
A short clip of the bargaining session surfaced on social media earlier this month, and the video’s caption alleged that Assistant City Manager Claire Whitley said to union representatives, “If you were top officers, you’d go and get the top dollar.”
The city’s email stated that Whitley’s words have been misquoted on social media, and that her comment in full was: “We all know there’s lots of reasons you work here, we’re not the top paid. You are the best officers. You could go get the top top dollar, right.”
Bryan Lambert, the attorney representing the union, said in an email that wages were not the focus of the negotiations.
“While a clip has apparently gone viral regarding wages, this is not the focus of the negotiations at this time,” Lambert said. “Rather than rely on one clip and the proposals, I strongly encourage anyone interested to watch the entirety of the negotiations.”
Pensions have been the issue discussed at each bargaining session, Lambert said, since officers want the city to reinstate pension benefits it had previously removed when reducing its pension contributions.
“The city has used the tax money provided by the state, for the benefit of officer pensions, to reduce the city’s contribution to the pension plan by over half of their percentage,” Lambert said. “This was done while also reducing officers’ pension benefits to the minimum required by law.”
Because the union had discussed these pension issues with the city in previous negotiations, the city hired third-party public pension attorney Jim Linn, who said in a statement to the Observer that the police pension plan is being administered as negotiated and agreed upon by the city and police bargaining unit.
The city does use insurance premium tax money allocated by the state to help pay for police pension benefits in accordance with state law, Lewis said. This year, Linn said, the city is using $440,000 to offset its pension contribution, but after applying the police officers’ contributions (of approximately $343,500), the city’s contribution is more than $1.1 million, or 30.8% of payroll.
“This averages out to a city contribution of more than $18,650 for each of the city’s 62 active police officers,” Linn said. “State law allows cities and unions to negotiate over the amount of state premium tax revenues that can be used to pay for existing pension benefits by offsetting city pension contributions. This is exactly what the city and police union did in 2018, through a memo of understanding that has been included in every collective bargaining agreement since that time. For the union to now claim that the city has done something improper by following state law as well as its agreement with the union is without any legal or factual basis.”
City labor attorney Mark Levitt added that he believed there is some confusion or misinformation regarding the union’s assertions about pensions.
“The city has endeavored to clarify its actions, emphasizing that everything has been carried out in strict accordance with the law,” Levitt said in a statement to the Observer. “It is somewhat disconcerting that despite these explanations, the union continues to voice these claims. We sincerely hope that a more thorough understanding of the circumstances will lead to a resolution of this matter.”
In addition to pensions, the union is seeking to make officers eligible for overtime pay once they surpass 40 hours a week. Currently, Lambert said, Ormond Beach Police officers are required to work 42 hours a week before they can receive overtime pay.
“This means that officers work 104 hours per year more than a typical employee before earning overtime,” Lambert said.
The bargaining sessions can be viewed at youtube.com/@GregCook-rc1qx.