Bedford police 4-year contract includes raises, hikes in benefits
BEDFORD — Under a new four-year contract with the town, most members of the Bedford Police Union 1984 could receive a 3.5 percent raise in 2014 and 2015.
The town council approved the new contract on Jan. 22, contingent upon voters’ approval of cost-related items to be presented as a warrant article at town meeting on March 12.
“We have been advised that because it is a multi-year contract and there are escalating cost items, we need to bring those cost items to the voters of the community so they are informed that this contract is not only going to cost us x amount for year one, but is also going to cost us an additional amount in the out years,” said Crystal Dionne, the town’s finance and personnel director.
The costs of the contract for 2014 include wage adjustments of $63,157, a new officer at $77,519 and $50,922 for insurance, leaving a budget shortfall of $3,322.
The contract includes $3,397,487 in annual salaries, holiday pay, educational incentives, retirement benefits, health/dental and life insurances, longevity and uniform allowances — an increase of $194,920 over the previous contract that expired in December.
The cost for 2015 is $3,541,155, an increase of $143,668 from 2014. The contract could be reopened for further wage negotiations for 2016 and 2017 at the request of the town or the Bedford Police Union.
Dionne said there are 13 people in the department who could receive 2 percent or up to 4 percent in raises, but those amounts will not be available until mid-February. The union negotiations began in June with Dionne, Police Chief John Bryfonski, Capt. Dan Douidi and Mark Broth, the town’s labor attorney.
Before agreeing to the contract, some members of the town council expressed their concerns over the wage increase, while acknowledging the services provided by Bedford police to the community.
Councilor Bill Dermody said he hopes the police union will be considerate of any additional cost increases that may occur during negotiations in 2016 and 2017.
“This is not the wealthiest town in New Hampshire, contrary to some of the roads in this town and the sizes of the houses. There are a lot of people who are just average wage earners, and 3-1/2 percent to them is a dream and not a reality,” Dermody said.
Dionne said during negotiations, the police union accepted a lesser insurance plan that will offset additional costs of the contract.
“We initially entered into negotiations offering the same wage and benefit package we offered our other unions, which was a 2 percent increase and a specific insurance plan,” she said. “While it looks like a 3-1/2 percent increase, we are going to garner savings, not only in this year but in future years, on health insurance plans so we won’t be paying as much in premiums. They did chose plans with deductibles, which they didn’t have before, and those plans are considerably less.”
She said the town was not in favor of the 3.5 percent raises, but if the union was able to negotiate creatively, “the town was certainly willing to listen.”
In previous years, the average raise increases were from 5.3 to 5.5 percent, she said.
Councilor Jim Scanlon said the wage increase seems fair for the services provided.
“Personally, I do not think that a raise percentage given to the recreation department or the accounting department can be looked at in the same sense and light as you look at a raise given to a public safety function like police,” Scanlon said.
The contract includes five bereavement days for the death of an immediate family member, up from the previous contract’s three-day pay and a new drug testing policy that eliminates the need for 60 days advance notice. The clothing allowance decreased by $155 for officers and $455 for dispatchers, because of their change in uniform requirements, and a one-time allowance of $400 is added for bicycle patrol officers. Longevity has been capped at $2,000 for current and new members with the exception of those who already have 20 or more years of service with the town. There was no cap provided in the previous contract.
The Bedford Budgetary Town Meeting takes place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 12, at the Bedford High School auditorium.
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