Raises for firefighters, police come with benefit concessions

Raises for firefighters, police come with benefit concessions

SMITHFIELD - After three years without a raise, the town's police officers and firefighters will see pay hikes under new contracts that the Town Council agreed to ratify at its Jan. 7 meeting.

Police, who had recently been working under single-year contracts, will now operate under a three-year pact that provides a 3 percent raise every year.

Firefighters, whose current three-year contract expires in June, will operate under a three-year agreement that provides a 3 percent raise in the first year and 2 percent in each of the following years.

As part of their deal, police, represented by the 39-member FOP Lodge 17, agreed to pay 1 percent of their salaries including longevity and holiday pay, into the town's trust fund for post-retirement benefits, consisting largely of health and dental insurance, to age 65.

In a significant change from past practice, both departments agreed that to qualify for post-retirement benefits, any new hires must work at least 25 years and to at least age 55. Previously, they needed to work 20 years and there was no minimum age requirement.

Also new for both departments is a requirement that after new employees retire they will continue to make an annual co-share payment for post-employment benefits. The existing co-share is $1,500 a year, but when new employees retire they will pay whatever co-share is in force at the time.

Post retirement co-shares won't apply to current employees.

In exchange for the lower raise in the second and third years of the firefighters' contract, the town will pay 1 percent of each employee's salary into the municipal retirement system for firefighters.

Starting in the second year of their contract, firefighters will pay an additional 1 percent into the pension plan. They pay 8 percent now.

New members of the department now join the state retirement system, but older personnel are still part of the town plan.

The bargaining unit, the 53-member Local 250 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, agreed to allow the town to leave vacant for the life of the contract an unfilled secretarial position, whose salary and benefits would have cost a total of $240,000, according to Finlay.

Police pay currently ranges from $44,457 for first-year patrol officers to $70,402 for captains, who are the highest-ranking members of the union.

Current firefighter pay ranges from $49,033 for a private to $66,251 for the deputy chief, the highest-ranking member of the bargaining unit.