City to conduct salary study as part of ongoing negotiations with police union

In the first day of open negotiations between the city and the local police officers union, city representatives indicated they will be proposing changes to simplify the department’s pay plan and bring some compensation provisions in line with other city departments.

The city’s employment agreement with the Lawrence Police Officers Association covers wages, benefits and working conditions for officers and detectives and expires at the end of this year. On Friday afternoon, representatives for the city and LPOA met in the first of a series of open public meetings to discuss the agreement.

City Manager Tom Markus told LPOA representatives that they should expect the city to come back with proposals to alter the agreement’s current compensation plan. Markus said the city may suggest changes to the pay schedule, pending the results of a salary survey of other police departments, and that he would also like to simplify the agreement as much as he can.

“The amendment is pretty substantial when it talks about wages and salaries, and it seems overly cumbersome to manage,” Markus said. He added that he imagines it takes the department a substantial amount of time to make sure everyone is compensated according to the document’s provisions.

In 2018, the city will spend about $445,000 to fund the police agreement, giving a 1.75 percent wage increase to police officers and a 1 percent increase to detectives, according to the Journal-World’s coverage of the last agreement. That agreement, which covered three years, also increased wages in 2016 and 2017.

The first issue stated by LPOA Chairman Drew Fennelly was compensation. Fennelly proposed that the pay grade for police officers and detectives be increased by .5 percent next year.

“Compensation has not kept pace with comparable positions in our peer cities, while the cost of living in Lawrence has increased,” Fennelly said.

Fennelly read LPOA proposals regarding other aspects of compensation, such as premiums and longevity pay. Fennelly stated that out-of-pocket costs for premiums for health, dental and vision insurance have increased, and he proposed that coverage amounts for premiums be frozen at 2018 levels for the term of the agreement. LPOA is proposing that longevity pay be made a permanent budgetary item instead of a discretionary budgetary decision made annually by the City Commission.

Markus also proposed that several other parts of the agreement related to compensation be changed in order to make them consistent with the city’s policies for other departments. Those included the agreement’s provisions regarding on-call hours, vacation, holidays, leaves of absence, tuition/book reimbursement and overtime. Markus said those provisions should be consistent with the city’s employee policies. For instance, Markus said provisions that provide double-time pay in some instances are inconsistent with overtime paid for other city staff and other police departments, and also very costly. The city is proposing overtime be equal to a rate of time-and-a-half.

Friday’s meeting between city and LPOA representatives to discuss the agreement was the first in at least several years to be open to the public. According to the resolution governing the discussions, the discussions are to be open to the public unless it is mutually agreed to have them closed to the public. According to ground rules for the 2018 discussions, private caucusing breaks shall be provided at any time upon request.

Representatives from the city and LPOA will discuss their proposals further in upcoming meetings. The next meeting between the city and the LPOA will be from 3 to 6 p.m. May 24 at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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