What they make now
Here’s a look at current pay ranges for several police and fire positions in Lawrence:
Police officer: $40,478 to $51,807
Detective: $53,113 to $78,848
Firefighter EMT: $40,597 to $57,365
Firefighter Paramedic: $43,996 to $62,167
Fire Lieutenant EMT: $48,023 to $67,856
Fire Lieutenant Paramedic: $52,043 to $73,538
Wage increases of up to 6.5 percent for some police officers and up to 5 percent for firefighters are on tap for 2011 under new pay contracts that will be debated by city commissioners on Tuesday.
Commissioners at their weekly meeting are set to conclude multimonth negotiations with the city’s police and fire unions. The new one-year contracts would produce wage increases that generally are higher than what’s being provided in the private sector, but some city leaders said they believe the contracts are fair.
“These are areas where we have a lot of risk to lose good people who get recruited away by other departments,” City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said. “We are dealing with competitive forces here, and we have a lot invested in the training of these employees. We want them to stay with us for their careers.”
The contracts provide different pay increases depending upon experience and other factors. Here’s a look at some key provisions:
• All police officers will receive a wage increase of 1.5 percent at the beginning of 2011. Police detectives will not receive the general wage increase because the city contends detective salaries already are at or above levels seen in area communities. The average yearly wage for a Lawrence detective is $77,749.
• Both police officers and detectives will receive either a 2.5 percent or 5 percent wage increase on their anniversary date, based on their evaluations. But if they already are at the top of the pay scale for their position they won’t be eligible for the merit/step increases.
• Firefighters will receive on their anniversary dates either a 2.5 percent or 5 percent merit/step increase, based upon their evaluations. Firefighters who are at the top of their pay scale, however, only will be eligible for a 2.5 percent increase.
The end results of the two contracts are that all firefighters are likely to receive wage increases of at least 2.5 percent and all police officers will receive wage increases of at least 1.5 percent. Some detectives will receive wage increases of 2.5 percent to 5 percent, but those who are already at the top of the pay scale won’t receive any wage increases.
As for police officers who will be receiving increases totaling 4 percent to 6.5 percent, city leaders contend that number will be relatively small. Exact numbers weren’t immediately available, but the larger raises are for force members who have been with the department for less than 8 years, said Mike McAtee, leader of the Lawrence Police Officers Association.
The leaders of both the police and fire groups — which technically aren’t unions because their members are prohibited from striking — said the contracts were fair because they gave incentives to employees to remain loyal to the city. They said the city has strong reasons to reduce turnover in fire and police departments because costs to train new employees are high.
“You want people who are going to hire on and retire,” McMillen said. “We want 25- to 35-year employees because when an emergency happens, you don’t want an entire crew of one- or two-year guys.”
The wage increases for police and fire — the city’s only two unionized groups — are significantly different than those for nonunionized city employees. Employees outside of police and fire will be eligible for increases from a merit pool that will grow by 1.5 percent over 2010 totals.
Chestnut said the negotiations did include some discussion of whether any wage increases should be given to city employees during such tight economic times. Chestnut said the fact the city was able to come up with a way to provide raises without raising the property tax rate was key.
“If that wasn’t the case, we would be having a different conversation,” Chestnut said. “I think the increases are a recognition that as a group they have done a good job of controlling costs for the city.”