Despite prolonged negotiations that went beyond the expiration of the previous contract, negotiators for police and the Township Committee thanked each other for the process of reaching a four year settlement, retroactive to the beginning of 2012, that covers through the end of 2015.
The contract with Bernards Township's police unions, approved by the Township Committee at Tuesday's meeting, provides an average increase of 1.66 percent for the officers at the upper levels of the salary guide, said Township Administrator Bruce McArthur.
The pact covers 37 officers, including supervisors but not Chief Brian Bobowicz, who is the 38th member of the local police department, McArthur said.
Pay for the top supervisory officer beneath the chief, the rank of captain, a position that paid $136,071 on Jan. 1, 2012, will increase to $146,783 under the terms of the new contract, according to figures provided by the township on Wednesday.
Patrol Officer Ray Gizienski, president of the local PBA, thanked the township staff and negotiators for long efforts during 15 months of negotiations.
The new contract provides some advantages for the township, such as the reduction of starting salary for new patrol officers at $50,000, a reduction of a few thousand dollars, a pay level that will remain flat for the duration of the contract, McArthur said.
The agreement also extends the number of steps from the bottom to the top of the salary guide to nine, McArthur said. He said that the number of steps previously was six, with a chart showing there was a trainee level below the first step.
Many of the approved raises go into effect in July, which ultimately reduces the amount the township would pay out in pension costs, McArthur said.
For the first six months of 2012, as covered in the contract, the increase would be zero, which McArthur said is consistent with a salary freeze given to other municipal employees.
A 1.8 percent salary increase, retroactive, was granted as of July 2012, McArthur said. A 1.85 percent raise goes into effect in July 2013, and 2 percent raises kick in on July 2014 and July 2015, McArthur said. The agreement approved on Tuesday actually covers two unions, including police supervisors as well as regular PBA members, he said.
Different pay scale for supervisors, experienced patrol officers and those hired after Jan. 1, 2012.
Patrol officers hired after Jan. 1, 2012 would require nine steps of moving up the pay scale to reach the top level, as opposed to seven previously, counting the step of trainee.
By the final year of the contract, in July 2015, the pay scale for those hired before Jan. 1 of last year would reach at $109,435 for patrol officers at the top of the pay scale, information from the township showed.
Those hired after Jan. 1, 2012 would start at $50,000 and reach the same top of the scale after being promoted nine steps up the scale, according to township figures.
The agreement also imposes a $15,000 cap on acccumulated sick time benefits for starting officers or police who have not reached that level, McArthur said.
"Contract negotiations were protracted, but at all times professional and cordial," said Deputy Mayor John Carpenter.
Gizienski said the township and police unions reached an agreement without seeking assistance from an outside mediator.