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City Council adopts police concessions

Deal defers a pay raise, preserves officer jobs

The concessions agreed to by Spokane’s police force to save jobs and help balance the city budget include giving up a scheduled 4 percent pay raise, increasing out-of-pocket costs for health insurance and reductions in one of the two taxpayer-financed retirement plans that officers receive.

Details of the concession plan, agreed to by officers last week, were adopted Monday by the Spokane City Council.

The deal saves 35 jobs that were slated to be eliminated the day after Christmas and stops the city from severely cutting its investigative ability.

“I really, truly am delighted,” Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said after the council’s decision. Kirkpatrick focused many of the proposed cuts on the department’s detective force to try to preserve the force’s patrol and response abilities.

City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin praised union members for their willingness to accept the deal.

“We really appreciate that we’re not going to have 35 fewer police officers on the street,” she said.

Under the agreement, the guild will push its scheduled 4 percent raise to Jan. 1, 2012. Members still will get raises based on seniority.

Members also agreed to pay more for their medical coverage and to accept less in their deferred compensation plan. Like most city employees, guild members have two taxpayer-funded retirement plans: a traditional pension and a “deferred compensation plan,” which is similar to a 401(k) in which the employee sets aside money that the employer matches.

For medical insurance this year, officers pay $67 or $74 a month for insurance for themselves and dependents, depending on which plan they choose. That will increase to $105 a month next year.

In 2010, for their deferred compensation plan, the city matches up to 4 percent of an officer’s pay, plus contributes $50 a month even if the worker doesn’t match it. The guild agreed to give up the $50 payment and to reduce the city’s matching amount to 2 percent in 2011. In 2012, deferred compensation reverts to 2010 numbers.

The guild also promised not to “cash out” banked vacation or sick time next year. Under the current contract, guild members are allowed to bank vacation and sick time and can get paid up to 96 hours of that time each year on Nov. 1.

The deal makes 2011 the guild’s second straight year without a cost-of-living raise. Last year, the guild bargained for an extra week of vacation in lieu of a 2010 raise.

Attempts made to reach Guild President Ernie Wuthrich late Monday were unsuccessful.

In the event of another dire budget next year, Erin Jacobson, acting human resources director, said the city is under no obligation to fill positions as they become vacant or to avoid layoffs in 2012.

“That’s sort of our safety valve,” Jacobson said.

Kirkpatrick said there are at least 10 retirements scheduled among officers next year and that she will be cautious about filling those spots to avoid having to lay off recent hires.

In exchange for the concessions, administrators promised that no guild member would be laid off for 2011. The concessions cover a large part of the cost, but not all of it. Last week, the City Council diverted $1.5 million from the city’s street department to cover employment costs among the three unions that agreed to take concessions: the guild, the firefighters union, and the assistant prosecutors.

The fire deal was reached late last month. The deal with the Spokane Prosecutors Association, which covers about 10 members, was approved on Monday in the same vote that finalized the guild agreement.

The prosecutors’ concessions eliminated a scheduled 2 percent raise for 2011. It also raised their cost of medical insurance from 14 percent of the premium to 16.3 percent. Additionally, it reduced the amount the city matches for deferred compensation from $120 a month to $80 a month.

City Council President Joe Shogan said guaranteeing jobs for 2011 is well worth the concessions.

“For money up front, we’re saving a lot of money down the line,” Shogan said.

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