City Commission approves new collective bargaining agreements
During their regular meeting on Nov. 21, the Sarasota city commissioners voted unanimously to approve new collective bargaining agreements that will give Sarasota Police Department personnel raises between 14% and 16%, as city Human Resources Department Director Stacie Mason reported.
The first agreement covers officers, sergeants and crime scene investigators, or, criminalists, Mason pointed out. The second is for police lieutenants.
The total cost to the city will be $1,100,472, according to the Nov. 21 agenda request form that Mason provided in the packet for the board members. That includes pension expenses, the form says.
The new contracts will be in effect from Oct. 1 of this year through Sept. 30, 2025, that form points out. However, it explains, “Wage terms were agreed upon for the first year … only.”
That document further notes, “The average increase for a Police Officer is 13.75%,” while the average for a sergeant and a lieutenant is 14%.
The total cost to the city for the wage increases, the form continues, is $1,620,965. However, the form adds, the city budget that the commissioners approved for this fiscal year — which began on Oct. 1 — included $850,000 for the salary adjustments.
The rest of the funds will be covered by a budget amendment that the commissioners will be asked to approve later this fiscal year, the form said.
Wages for the second and third years of the agreement will be considered at a later time, the form indicates.
A schedule included in the agreement for officers, sergeants and crime scene investigators shows the salary range by steps. As Law Insider explains, a step “is one of the salary levels within the range of rates for a classification” of a job.
The chart puts the pay for the first step for officers in the current, 2022-2023 fiscal year at $65,875. At Step 20, the pay is $91,929.
For sergeants, the step pay begins at $88,960 and rises to $106,314 at step No. 10. Below that chart, the agreement explains, “Newly ranked Sergeants will be slotted into the wage schedule on Step 1 unless that Step is less than a 10% increase.” In the latter case, the document adds, the promoted officer “shall move to the next highest step. Thereafter the Sergeant shall move through the steps based on anniversary date.”
That same process applies to the steps for the lieutenants.
The salary for the nine steps for a crime scene investigator ranges from $51,600 to $64,820.
The wage schedule for lieutenants starts at $107,000 and rises to $120,000.
A couple of clarifications
Although the item was on the board’s first Consent Agenda of routine business matters for the Nov. 21 meeting, Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch pulled it to ask Mason a couple of questions.
“We have been in negotiation sessions since February of this year,” Mason told the commissioners. “We negotiate at the table, and those meetings are public.”
The city representatives and those of the International Union of Police Association, Local #6045, AFL-CIO (IUPA), mutually agreed, she continued, that their primary concerns were that the wages be competitive for recruitment and retention of personnel and that Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche would retain the right “to be able to manage the department to the best of his ability.”
In working on the raises, Mason told the commissioners, the groups compared contracts for law enforcement officers throughout the region.
Her agenda request form said of the new agreements, “[T]he wage structure positions our agency to be in the top tier of compensation packages.”
Additionally, the form notes, the new agreements provide for “employee medical contributions and plans remaining status quo for the first year …”
Further, the form says, the sections of the agreements regarding time off for personnel “will be modernized to mirror attendance plans offered throughout the City …”
Moreover, the form notes, “The residential pay incentive was increased from $35 per week to $50 per week for those [department] members that reside within the City limits.”
The form added that the Police Department has 173 full-time sworn officers, sergeants, lieutenants and crime scene investigators.
Commissioner Ahearn-Koch did ask Mason about an item in one agreement that used the abbreviation “HOPP.”
Deputy City Manager Patrick Robinson, a former deputy chief of the Police Department, explained that that refers to the Home Ownership for Police Program. It is an incentive for personnel to live within the Sarasota city limits, he added.
Ahearn-Koch also referenced a section of the agreements that says, “A minimum of two requests for PTO [Paid Time Off] time shall be granted for the same dates per each shift.” Should that have read “maximum,” instead, she asked Mason.
Again, Robinson replied, telling Ahearn-Koch that the language was included to ensure that officers who are owed paid time off can take it.
That section of the agreements also says that after a request for paid time off “has been approved it cannot be rescinded except when the Department reasonably deems an emergency to exist. In that event, the Chief of Police shall recall employees back to work” in accord with the priority protocol for granting paid time off requests.
“I think this is a big step for the city, going forward,” Ahearn-Koch said after her exchanges with Mason and Robinson.
“It is a big step,” Mason concurred. “[It] took a lot of efforts on both sides.”
Then Ahearn-Koch made a motion calling for approval of the agreements, and Commissioner Erik Arroyo seconded it. The motion passed unanimously.
Vice Mayor Liz Alpert participated in the Nov. 21 meeting via Zoom because she said she had contracted a bad cold after traveling to Kansas City, Mo., for a National League of Cities conference held last week.