INDIANAPOLIS, IN – A tight budget next year has left the Indianapolis police and fire departments facing the prospect of thinning ranks, and most officers with take-home cars will pay a new fuel surcharge.
But a tentative deal reached Tuesday — reviving the promise of 3 percent raises for officers and firefighters — could resolve some remaining uncertainty caused by these budget pressures.
The rank-and-file would get the same pay increases they expected, but six months later than they’d hoped.
The deal between the city and the police and fire unions, subject to ratification by their members next week, would provide a 3 percent base salary increase for all firefighters and police officers on July 1. Before Mayor Greg Ballard activated a renegotiation clause in August, seeking to save money, the contracts had promised the same raises at the start of the year.
Under the agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 86 and the Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Local 416, covered employees also would not see increases in their share of insurance premiums until July 1. The city will absorb any hikes until then.
“We understand the situation the city is in, and we committed to working with the mayor and city council to fix the fiscal problems,” said Ted Waldroup, a spokesman for the firefighters union. “We consider ourselves a partner.”
How to cover the $3.5 million cost of the agreement remains to be sorted out, though mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter says finding cost savings will be a priority.
Still, the result of a six-month delay in the raises and premium increases — attained by reopening the contracts for the first time in city history — is a savings of about $2 million.
In a statement, Ballard gave credit for the deal to his negotiating team and to union leaders.
Mary Moriarty Adams, chairwoman of the City-County Council’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, welcomed the tentative deal.
“It’s commendable,” she said, “that, on both sides, they have been able to find some sort of common ground and agreement.”
The unions’ contracts, which run through 2014, provide for additional 3 percent raises the final year. Lotter said those provisions remain intact.
Tuesday’s announcement came as Ballard, a Republican, and the council’s majority Democrats continue negotiations to sort out unresolved issues related to next year’s nearly $1.1 billion city/county budget.
Ballard signed the budget passed by the council in October, but his line-item vetoes cut part of the council office’s budget as well as $31.8 million in income tax money that had been earmarked for Marion County offices, agencies and the courts.
He says he wants a long-term budget deal from Democrats before he will agree to reinstate that funding. Otherwise, the council will be forced to divvy up cuts to county offices next year.
Council Majority Leader Vernon Brown suggested the police and firefighter raises should be absorbed through belt-tightening, if possible.
“We’ll have to look at the budget,” said Brown, who is an Indianapolis Fire Department battalion chief but didn’t play a role in contract negotiations. “Right now, we still haven’t resolved the funding cuts that the mayor instituted already.”
FOP President Bill Owensby declined to comment on the tentative deal before information sessions and membership voting, both set Monday through Dec. 12. The firefighters union will have info sessions and allow voting during a similar period next week.
“In the interim,” Owensby said, “we remain focused on our current and future public safety challenges as well as our combined community policing efforts.”
The premium increases that take effect mid-year will cost officers and firefighters $36 to $79 total for the second half of the year, Waldroup said, depending on which city health plans they have.
Since 2008, according to the mayor’s office, pay has increased by a cumulative 14 percent for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s fewer than 1,600 officers and the IFD’s roughly 1,200 firefighters. They received no raises in 2011 and 1 percent raises this year.
Officers are helping in a small way to balance next year’s budget by paying a fuel surcharge of $64 to $150 a month, depending on how they use their take-home cars and where they live. The surcharge is expected to raise $1.3 million a year.
The council and Ballard have squabbled over whether the city can afford recruit classes next year. Each department’s ranks have been declining as they struggle to offset retirements.