Austin police get 3 percent raise now, no increase in 2011
By Kurt Nesbitt
The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
What happened:The city of Austin adopted a two-year labor agreement with Austin Police Department's patrol officers that included 3 percent salary increase this year and no increase for next year.
Why it matters:City officials have said they aim to keep pay increases at zero for 2011 as a method of shoring up the city's budget in the wake of more than $1 million in Local Government Aid cuts from the state. The city has seven labor contracts that expire at the end of the year.
What is next:City department heads have already discussed ways they can make up for the loss, but the budget process won't start until late summer.
The city of Austin settled its last labor agreement for 2010 on Monday night, approving a two-year contract with the patrol officers of the Austin Police Department.
The city and the union, which represents the 19 police officers in APD's patrol division, agreed to a 3 percent wage increase for 2010 retroactive to Jan. 1, with no increase for 2011.
Austin City Administrator Jim Hurm said the contract is the last one for the city to settle for 2010.
The contract's terms are close to those in other police departments in similarly sized cities, such as Albert Lea and Owatonna, according to Len McFarland, field representative for Law Enforcement Labor Services, the union that represents APD's patrol section.
McFarland said the zero-percent increase is a major concession.
"There's been a lot of give in unions lately," he said.
There could be more give in the future, as the city's other labor agreements expire at the end of 2010. City officials have said they aim to stem state reductions in Local Government Aid by keeping pay increases at zero.
City human resources director Tricia Wiechmann said she thinks the city's position in future contract negotiations will be no pay increases because of the LGA reduction. The city has seven labor agreements that will expire in 2010. She said the zero-percent increase for next year in the police contract is because of LGA cuts.
Austin lost $876,333 to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's last round of budget cuts. This year, the city will lose about $407,991 as lawmakers work to balance the state's books.
"The council is saying, 'This is half of our general fund budget,'" said Hurm. "We have been reducing the number employees by two each year."
He said no salary increases in 2011 is one of the city council's goals for 2010.
"We appreciate what the police have done. They have stepped up to the plate here," said Hurm.