March 05. 2014 8:17PM

Hudson voters to decide fate of five union contracts

Union Leader Correspondent

HUDSON — Voters heading to the polls next week will decide the fate of five collective bargaining agreements.

Among the items appearing on this year’s town warrant are Article 2, a seven-year contract with the police union; Article 3, a four-year contract with the town’s highway workers union; Article 4, a four-year contract with the police, fire and town supervisors’ union; Article 5, a six-year contract with the town’s support staff; and Article 6, a seven-year contract with the town’s firefighters’ union.

Fifty-one employees are enrolled in the Hudson Police Employees Association. The proposed contract includes a 2.75 percent cost-of-living adjustment starting in 2015.

There are 24 employees in the Hudson Highway Union, and the proposed contract includes a provision for workers to progress to an additional step increase on their 10th anniversary of employment.

Twenty-seven employees are in the Supervisors Association, which includes police captains and lieutenants, deputy fire chiefs and fire captains, the town engineer, town planner and town accountant.

A 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment is included in the contract.

There are 20 employees in the Hudson Support Staff Union, which includes administrative aides, custodians, inspectors and utility clerks, and, like the highway workers’ contract, their new contract includes provisions for an additional step increase.

The 35 firefighters in the Hudson Fire Fighters Union, IAFF Local 3154, are also up for an additional step increase that officials said “would bring their wage scale into parity with similar communities in the area.”

During Tuesday night’s Hudson Board of Selectmen meeting, Chairman Rick Maddox said he’s heard from many citizens concerned about excessive tax increases they feared would result from the passage of the five union contracts.

Maddox said those concerns were, for the most part, unfounded.

“These are contracts that, overall, represent 90 percent of our town’s work force,” Maddox said. “With all these contracts coming before us, we really looked at it as an opportunity to control health care costs.”

Right now, all of the town’s union workers are enrolled in the Blue Cross/Blue Shied JY plan, which Maddox said is significantly more expensive than the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Comp 100 plan being proposed as part of the contract agreements.

The new plan would set the town/employee cost share at 80/20, set a fixed amount for the insurance opt-out payment for current employees and reduce the amount for future hires.

“We tried to balance the (town’s) reduction in health care costs,” Selectmen Roger Coutu said. “The result was a very modest increase in salaries.”

Selectmen said that if all five of the contracts pass next week, the result would be a tax increase of 7 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value.

If all articles pass, the end result would be a town tax rate of $6.61, which would be an increase of $61.44 for the owner of a home appraised at $256,000, the average in Hudson.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Coutu said. “That’s about a cup of coffee per day.”

Voting on all warrant articles will take place on Tuesday, March 11. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hudson Community Center, 12 Lions Ave.