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New Contracts Lower Starting Police, Employee Salaries And Slow Raises

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There were many police officers and town employees at Monday's Town Council meeting.
There were many police officers and town employees at Monday’s Town Council meeting.
The Verona Town Council unanimously approved a new three-year contract with police officers that should bring substantial relief to our municipal budget and could become a model for agreements in other towns.

The contract, which runs through December 2016, drops the starting officer salary and slows the pace of salary increases over the officer’s career. It encourages officers to be paid for overtime early in their careers, rather than take the so-called comp time payment at the end, which it takes a bigger hit of the town’s budget. And with perhaps six retirements expected from the force in the next four to five years, the new contract sets Verona up to save $150,000 on each of its new hires over their careers. The changes are important because although the police force has shrunk in the last decade, it remains the largest cost in Verona’s budget. The new contract probably won’t cut the budget, but it should slow its rate of increase.

Here’s what’s happening in the new contract, which was presented to the Council in front of a Council chamber packed with officers and town employees. The starting salary for a new officer is being lowered by almost 40%, to $38,300 from roughly $62,000. The number of salary steps–the points at which the officer’s pay is increased–will expand to 10 from six, which means that it will take new hires four years to get to their predecessors’ starting pay. It will take them 10 years to get to a $108,000 salary, something that would have taken only six years under the old contract.

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“Increasing the steps, that really is different,” says Jeffrey Keefe, a professor at Rutger’s University’s School of Management and Labor Relations in New Brunswick, noting that only the New Jersey state police now have a 10-level step guide. “The other thing that is different is starting them off at what they were earning at the [Police] Academy. This gives the town the time to see if this officer is what they really want.”

By law, police officers get something called compensatory, or “comp”, time instead of overtime. In the past, they saved that until the end of their careers, when the hours were paid to them at a much higher rate than they would have gotten as young officers. The new contract lets Verona buy back up to 200 hours of comp time when an officer is promoted to sergeant, and the payout to the officer can be put in a deferred compensation account similar to those used for bonus payouts in the private sector. “We link a current cost to a current payment instead of kicking the can down the road,” said Town Manager Joe Martin on Monday night.

The police weren’t the only ones to get a new contract. The Council also unanimously approved a three-year agreement with the O.P.E.I.U. Local 153, which covers municipal employees. It adds four levels to their step guide and drops the starting salary in the guide to $33,000 from $41,000. Martin expects six retirements from this group of employees as well in the next four to five years, so taxpayers should see a savings as replacements are brought in at a lower rate.

“The contracts recognize taxpayer concerns,” said Martin. “I am pleased and proud of the outcome.”

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

7 COMMENTS

  1. I have many family members that are police officers. You guys lay your life on the line. But not for nothing these salaries are absurd. Newark, EO, Irvington doesn’t make close to that. Starting salary 62K. Are you joking? 108k in 6 years? Without overtime? Come on, with all the break-ins going on for 2 years. That kind of money doesn’t justify my 12k taxes.

    It’s about time the council did this. Now let’s see how many double dippers are in council. Because if you double dip, you are part of MY problem and everyone else who is scraping pennies and get no respect from this voter.

  2. John G,
    You are absolutely correct these salaries and increases are out of control.
    I work in Newark on EMS and don’t make near these salaries and Newark PD doesn’t as well. Trust me, we work 10 times harder in far worse conditions.

  3. I’m trying to follow your logic on comparing police salaries in urban areas to suburban areas. I take your comment as you would rather have Newark Police patrolling your neighborhood than your local police because they do a better job? Have you seen Newark’s crime rate in a while? How about the DOJ monitor for rampant misconduct? I guess you would also agree that the Manager at McDonalds deserves more pay than the Manager of the Four Season’s Restaurant because they serve more customers? If you think you deserve better for your $12,000 then think how you would feel if you spent the same $12K and lived in Newark. Newark Police are lower paid than Verona, but Newark is nearly bankrupt and Verona has plenty of cash to pay the bills and then some. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but your better off in your situation so count your blessings.

  4. Poorly thought out spending of money for years in Verona. It is time to take some action steps to put the money where it is needed. I am utterly shocked at the salaries of the police force in Verona especially when I see very little of “the force” in town. Yes…our crime-rate is low in this small town, but our increasing traffic and disrespect for town properties is prevalent. Where is the Verona police force to help manage that on a daily basis?

  5. Um…I am astonished that we ever had such high pay grades to begin with? 62K starting? Who in the world allowed this? I didn’t get that much at my first job after graduating from college! Don’t get me wrong, I respect and admire our police department but that starting wage is obscene.

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