2014-12-18 / Front Page

Police Contracts Approved

By Tom Walsh

The Newport City Council emerged from a closed-door executive session on Wednesday, Dec. 17 and voted 5 to 1 to ratify two new contracts that grant police officers pay increases of 10 percent over the four-year life of the pacts. The new contracts also include cost-saving changes to what officers pay for pensions and health insurance.

Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano was joined by Councilors Marco Camacho, Lynn Ceglie, John Florez and Naomi Neville in voting to approve the contracts. Councilor Justin McLaughlin voted against the agreements, while Councilor Kathryn Leonard was absent from the meeting.

One of the new contracts covers the period from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014. Officers had worked without a contract since June 30, 2013. The second contract covers the three years beginning July 1, 2014 and running through June 30, 2017.

The one-year agreement provides for a salary increase of 2.5 percent as of Jan. 1, 2014, to be paid retroactively. The three-year contract calls for another 2.5 percent raise as of July 1, 2014, also retroactive. Then, 2.5 percent increases will be provided on July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016.

Under the two contracts, salary increases would total $1.26 million, according to the fiscal analysis prepared by city staff. However, some of that increase is covered by pension and other cost-saving provisions agreed to by both the administration and Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge Number 8.

Under the new agreements, officers hired after July 1, 2014—except for recruits in the Police Academy as of last September—will get their pensions as part of the state Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS). Police officers already hired as of this year are in an independent pension plan administered by the city .

With two new officers coming into the department per year, the city will save more than $300,000 under the contract that expires in 2017. Even greater savings are expected in the future.

The new contracts also provide for health savings account plans designed to save the city nearly $175,000, according to a fiscal analysis of the plan.

In another feature, the new agreement limits sick-leave payouts for officers at $25,000, thereby saving another $450,000 over the life of the contract. Overall, the financial analysis reports that these savings elements limit the fiscal impact to the city to $85,291 from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2017.

The new agreements also require the city to maintain at least 78 police officers. This excludes the police chief, who works under a separate contract with the city.

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