Lower Burrell, PA Officials Ink 4-Year Contract with Police Force

From The Tribune-Review by Liz Hayes, January 14, 2014

Lower Burrell Council on Monday approved a retroactive, 4-year contract with the city’s 15 police officers.

Mayor Don Kinosz said the contract was largely approved about a year ago and has been in effect but working out some legal language held up formal approval until now.

The contract, which began Jan. 1, 2013, froze wages for six months, then offered a 2 percent raise last July and another 2 percent raise this month. The agreement grants 2.5 percent raises in each of the last two years.

Salaries at the start of the contract ranged from $48,600 for a first-year patrol officer to nearly $70,000 for a lieutenant. During 2016, the final contract year, those salaries will range from about $53,100 to $76,300.

That amounts to a raise of about 9 percent over the 4-year period.

Kinosz said the pact offers a new DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) pension benefit. At least one officer is expected to take use it.

The plan allows officers who are eligible for retirement (at least 20 years of service and at least 54 years of age) to enter a deferred retirement window, during which the city no longer contributes to the standard pension fund for the employee. Instead, the contribution is made to a separate account that is turned over to the employee upon full retirement.

The officer has up to three years to fully retire from the force once entering the DROP window.

Kinosz said the plan may benefit the city by encouraging experienced officers to continue working, rather than retiring as soon as they’re eligible. He expects one other officer will become eligible for retirement and the DROP plan during this contract.

Kinosz said the DROP plan offer will expire at the end of the contract, giving officials an opportunity to review the pros and cons.

Under the contract, police continue contribute to the cost of health insurance premiums. Using the city’s 2006 health-insurance costs as a base, officers pay 15 percent of any cost increases over that amount. Kinosz could not immediately provide an estimate on what officers currently pay.

Police and all other city employees entered a high-deductible health-insurance plan last year. Even though the city covers the deductible, it saves the city money because the premium costs are lower.

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