As WHMI reported last Friday, the Brighton City Council has ratified a new, 4-year contract with its two police dept. union — the command officers bargaining unit and the patrol officers unit. Both units are members of the Police Officers Labor Council. The two unions’ memberships had previously ratified the 4-year contract. The department has 15 members — nine patrol officers, five command officers and Police Chief Rob Bradford, who has a separate contract. WHMI left messages with the heads of both the command and patrol officers’ units for comment on the new contracts but the calls were not returned.

The contract gives police officers a 3.5% pay increase the first two years and a 2% pay hike in years three and four. It also includes signing bonuses of $3,500 for newly-hired police officers with five years’ experience and $5,000 for new officers with 10 years’ experience. In return for the pay increase, the employees have made concessions in regard to their pension benefits and will be required to put more into their retirement. City Manager Nate Geinzer tells WHMI that a huge problem for the city in the past several years has been balancing the budget in the face of the constantly rising costs of running a local government.

Geinzer said that an advantage for employees in the new contracts is that there will be options for matching 457 funds. The 457 plan is a type of deferred-compensation retirement plan available for governmental and some nongovernmental employers. The employer (in this case, the city of Brighton) provides the plan and the employee defers compensation into it on a pretax or after-tax basis. For the most part, the plan operates similarly to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, but unlike a 401(k) plan, it has no 10% penalty for withdrawal before the age of 55, although the withdrawal is subject to ordinary income taxes.

Geinzer says the contracts, as well as the other new contracts successfully negotiated with the city’s four bargaining units, together will help assure that the city is able to remain stable financially in the near term. Not being able to negotiate changes in all four of the union contracts regarding pension, retirement benefits and other aspects, Geinzer said, would have been disastrous for the city. He adds that, “Our employees are owed a debt of gratitude to come to the table and make these tough choices.” (TT)