Pension costs divide Mount Carmel council, police negotiating team
MOUNT CARMEL - Disagreement over pension costs has divided borough police officers and council members while they negotiate toward a new three-year contract.
While the new deal has not yet been approved by both entities, Cpl. David Donkochick, who is one of three officers on the police's negotiation team, said Friday the police "have everything resolved, except one (thing)."
Police are working under a three-year contract that expired Dec. 31.
Pension in the borough is calculated by the average salary of an officer's final three years of employment, which includes the base salary plus accumulated overtime.
The borough wants to cap that accumulated overtime at $3,125 even if the officer accumulates more, said Donkochick.
"We felt that number is a little low," Donkochick said.
Council members unanimously approved Thursday night the tentative agreement that would cover 2014 through 2016, but solicitor William Cole said the document won't be made public until it's reviewed and approved by the police negotiation team.
While the borough did not get all it was bargaining for in the contract, "This is the best and final offer," said council President Tony Matulewicz.
By far, police salaries and benefits, at a projected $999,465.40, are the largest part of the borough's 2014 spending plan, taking up approximately 60 percent of the $1,652,431 budget. Salaries for eight full-time and four part-time officers cost the borough $450,256; health, pension and other benefits total $549,209.
In their current contract, officers did not receive a raise in 2011, but their hourly wages increased by 25 cents in 2012 and 35 cents in 2013.
Additionally, they get $75 a year for every year of service to the borough - up from $50 in the previous contract. For example, if an officer is employed at the borough for 15 years, he receives an extra $1,125 annually.
Officers are now contributing 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions and a flat $500 toward their health care plans each year. The borough contributed $120,000 in pension benefits in 2012, which includes past retired officers, and have budged $80,000 for officers for health care this year.
Donkochick said the officers have agreed to end the flat fee toward their health care and instead pay 9 percent this year, 9 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2016.
The overall premiums and salary increases will not be released until the final contract is approved, he said.
The borough's negotiating team consists of Councilmen Clem Plisiewicz, Robert Shirmer and Joseph Lapotsky; the police's team consists of Donkochick and Patrolmen William Adamski and Justin Stelma.
The police team will meet next week to accept the borough's proposal or submit a counter proposal, Donkochick said.
As soon as the police approve the deal, the contract will take effect, Matulewicz said.