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Ashland cops to get a raise

A new police contract will cost the city an estimated extra $88,310 this fiscal year. After four months of negotiations, an agreement was recently reached between the city and the Ashland Police Association.

The labor unit represents 23 sworn non-management employees, a community service officer and an evidence technician in the police department. These employees have been working under the conditions of the last contract, which expired June 30.

City Councilor Dennis Slattery said the new contract has some serious budgetary implications.

The new contract calls for a 3 percent increase in the first year of the contract, which is the new fiscal year that began July 1. The new contract is retroactive to that date.

The current budget only accounted for a 2 percent increase this year. The city will use contingency funds to cover the excess police expenses and expects that will be repaid through salary savings from unfilled positions, according to a staff report.

Years two and three of the contract include a 3 to 4 percent increase based on inflation using the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, but not to exceed a maximum of 4 percent.

City Attorney Dave Lohman said that increase will have to be worked into the next budget or else the city may need to terminate a position or two. He said the city is not contractually bound to fill a specified number of positions.

City Administer Kelly Madding said safety enforcement agencies are barred from striking, so the goal is to come to an agreement with the union before arbitration, a third-party resolution, is necessary.

Lohman said the arbitrator has to pick one side’s proposal and that it’s a gamble.

To reach their decision, city bargainers, staff and the City Council looked at four cities with populations slightly above Ashland (Forest Grove, Milwaukie, Roseburg and Klamath Falls) and three cities slightly below (Sherwood, Central Point and Hermiston), according to a staff report. They also looked at the city of Medford and the Oregon State Police departments because they are “strong attractors for the city’s police officers.” Ashland landed in the middle.

“That’s a good place to be in the sense that we compete for police officers from other jurisdictions, and we want to compete well, and we want to find the right people,” Madding said.

Madding said incentive pay was increased for attributes such as longevity, education and physical fitness.

Monthly vacation accrual, monthly sick leave accrual and monthly deferred compensation also increased to better match the recent adjustment made for non-represented employees and the Ashland Firefighters Association.

Councilor Rich Rosenthal said safety enforcement contracts are difficult to negotiate.

“We don’t have a lot of leverage because of that,” Rosenthal said. “I think this was really superbly negotiated, and, yes, we understand that there are things in these types of agreements that are not ideal for us in terms of our finances, but we don’t have total control over some things.”

This contract is valid for three years, until June 30, 2021.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

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