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Police association, city, agree on contract terms

After nearly a year of operating without a contract in place, members of the Ashland Police Association are getting a 5 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2015.

The new three-year agreement, approved by the City Council without comment on June 21, calls for 2 percent salary increases in its second and third years.

“I’m glad we could resolve it. Both sides are feeling positive about the contract,” Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said of the agreement. He reiterated that the negotiations surrounded salaries. “It was mostly about the usual thing, money. The staff wanted an increase and the city administration wanted to be conservative and responsible with taxpayers' money.”

The last contract affecting 22 officers and two other staffers expired on June 30, 2015. The new agreement is more than was called for in the city's current two-year budget, which projected 2 percent increases in each of the three years. The difference in wages is about $65,000. A one-time city payment of $700 to association members' Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association (VEBA) accounts will cost about $15,000. The total of about $80,000 in unbudgeted expense is expected to be absorbed through Police Department budget savings in other areas, including position vacancies.

Exactly how increases affects pay of each officer is dependant on what they currently earn. APD salaries vary among officers between the low $70,000s to the $90,000 range, depending on qualifications and background, as well as the position the person currently holds. 

The Ashland Police Association contract dictates everything from hours to holiday and overtime regulations. The city of Ashland has authorized the chief to seek a Department of Justice grant to hire another officer and the department has also been authorized to hire part-time cadets for the summer season to assist with law enforcement. The cadets would not be sworn officers.

Protracted contract negotiations between the city and the Ashland Police Association is not unusual. In 2003 the Association decertified with The Teamsters but even in that year negotiations took roughly one year and called for retroactive raises. 

The three-year total of 9 percent in salary raises is comparable to that recently agreed to by another large public sector employee bargaining group, the Association of Professors at Southern Oregon University. That group agreed in January to a three-year contract with raises totalling from 8.25 to 8.75 percent over the term of the contract.

Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at akinsj@sou.edu and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.