Council OKs bargaining agreement with police unionBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
February 17. 2017 1:02AM
MERRIMACK — A tentative agreement has been reached that would provide local police officers with a combined 8 percent salary increase over the next three years, if approved by voters.
This week, the Merrimack Town Council unanimously approved a proposed bargaining agreement with the New England Police Benevolent Association, Local 12 Union.
“The main goal that the council had in the endeavor was to contain the costs of health insurance and to give higher deductibles,” said Town Manager Eileen Cabanel.
If supported at the polls in April, the new four-year contract will be retroactive to fiscal year 2016-2017 since the union did not have an active contract in place at that time.
Under the agreement, no salary adjustments would take place during the first year of the contract, a 3 percent wage increase would occur in fiscal year 2017-2018, another 3 percent salary hike would occur the following year, and there would be a 2 percent increase in pay the final year.
In exchange for the wage adjustments, union members — including Merrimack police officers, detectives and sergeants — have agreed to significant health insurance concessions that other local unions have also agreed to, according to Cabanel.
“I commend everyone for working with the unions to try to mitigate some of these health insurance costs, because they have really been getting out of control,” she said.
The combined cost of the contract over the four-year period is an additional $250,552, or about an 8 cents increase on the town portion of the tax rate by the end of the contract.
The agreement, if approved by voters, will have no impact on the town’s current spending plan, but will increase the budget by nearly $59,000 in the coming year, said Tom Mahon, town councilor.
By switching to a higher health insurance deductible, union members are paying more attention to their insurance costs, which helps minimize the overall costs to the town as an employer, explained Tom Koenig, town councilor.
“While these are more out of pocket, and we are trying to offset with wages, it is having a fiscal impact,” Koenig said of the healthcare concessions made by numerous local unions.
Finlay Rothhaus, town councilor, said he appreciates all of the unions for stepping up to the plate and working with the town to alleviate some of its concerns with rising health insurance costs.
According to Cabanel’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-2018, townwide health insurance costs increasing by about $109,000, retirement costs increasing by $168,000 and contractual raises for five unions total an additional $160,000.