Oregon City Council on Monday unanimously approved a re-opener agreement with the Oregon Police Patrolmen’s Association and the Police Command Officers/Fraternal Order of Police for a pay raise.
The re-opener is for wages only for July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.
The ratified contracts were in line with contracts for the fire department and AFSCME, said Mayor Mike Seferian.
Law Director Paul Goldberg said it was unusual to reopen a contract mid-term.
“We generally like to negotiate a three year agreement, have everything – the wages and contract language - covered for three years. We set out last year to negotiate a contract with all five of our bargaining units. We did strike a three year contract and contract language with all the units, but due to the nature of the national and local economy, we just didn’t think it was prudent at that time to strike a deal on wages because it wasn’t clear where we were going. It’s still kind of that way,” said Goldberg. “We thought it was actually in the best interests of the city and the employees to wait and see how things developed. This is what we’ve come up with. Council and the administration have been very conscientious and responsible stewards of the public monies. And that’s why we’re in a position to be able to offer pay raises to our employees. When you see many other communities making cuts, furloughs and layoffs, we’re doing none of the above. So with the police officers and command, they chose to do a one year re-opener.”
The city sought to negotiate the same raise received by full-time firefighters, said Goldberg.
“Full-time fire received a 4 ½ percent raise over two years, which they accepted. Then they got a $200 cash bonus in each year. The patrol officers got a 2 ½ percent raise last year. So to make it exactly the same as the fire, we agreed to a 2 percent raise for this next year,” said Goldberg. “They received no cash bonus last year. So to make up for that, they’re going to get one this year and another one in January. At the end of two years, they’ll be treated exactly the same as the firefighters.”
In addition, officers who conduct field training of other officers will receive more money while officers who are being trained will get less during the training period, said Goldberg.
BP oil spill
Councilman Mike Sheehy asked whether the city has a plan in place if tax revenue from the BP refinery drops as a result of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused by an explosion of a BP oil rig in April that has sparked the worst environmental disaster in American history.
“The income from BP could possibly become very restrictive sometime in the latter part of the year. We hope that won’t happen,” said Sheehy. “But some people are suggesting that it could. Has the administration made any plans for that eventuality?”
Seferian called it “a concern.”
“All we can do is track that as often as possible,” said Seferian. “The good news is the improvement that BP is making is a profitable improvement for them, and it would be easy for them to project that. In the interest of them doing an improvement and spending money, they could show very easily that once the improvement is done, they would have access to more money because the profits from being able to handle the Canadian crude at a lower cost is profitable. We are hoping this project will maybe keep us whole through the next couple of years and the economy will be doing a little better. We’ll be watching it. This is really uncharted water. No one knows. But at least we have a reasonably decent feel about it.”
Sheehy asked Seferian if BP indicated in its meetings with him that the Husky project “is full speed ahead.”
Seferian said BP told him the previous Thursday that “this is a `go’ project.”
“I think we’re all horrified what’s going on in the Gulf,” said Sheehy. “But that is at least some good news for the City of Oregon.”
Seferian said in response to a letter to the editor in The Press that suggested the city should cancel its Fourth of July celebration this year and redirect funds donated by BP to help clean up the Gulf.
“I will let you know that money was all committed before the Gulf event happened,” said Seferian.
Administrator Mike Beazley said the administration kept an eye on the condition of the economy during negotiations with the unions.
“These are one year re-openers. The first request from the bargaining units was to take care of both years at once and have an additional raise scheduled for the year after. We just didn’t think that was responsible in this climate to schedule something for 2011. Let’s wait and see where it is. So we want to take it a year at a time. That’s prudent practice in this climate.”
Council member Sandy Bihn questioned the wisdom of negotiating raises at a time when city revenues are currently down.
“Income tax revenues year to date ending May 31 in the general fund are down about $500,000 from the prior year,” said Bihn. “And as we track these, as we’re giving increases in wages, I’ve always felt the pulse of the income tax is really the bread and butter of the city. Yet we’re giving raises when apparently our revenues are dropping. We’d like to be very cautious about that because generally, when these things happen, usually they’re freezes rather than raises. I know there’s a precedent with the other bargaining units, and that would be something we’d want to look at. I realize this is one year. But we are giving raises at a time when it appears our revenues are dropping.”
Seferian said the administration is “very conscious” of the reduced city income tax and that Beazley is closely monitoring it.
“Other bargaining units were there, and we wanted to not have to fall into the position of catching up at a different time,” said Seferian. “We felt even though the revenues were down, we had some good news in there. Actually, the police wanted to sacrifice the $200 and add half a percent, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But when it adds up, it was a bigger number, and we said `no.’ We did try to compare apples to apples, and this really does represent that.”