Bradenton police union OKs new contract, first raises since 2009

Herald StaffMarch 7, 2014 

BRADENTON -- The Bradenton Police Department's union has ratified a three-year-contract with the city of Bradenton that will include the first raise for officers since 2009, police officials announced Thursday.

The Police Union, represented by the Florida Police Benevolent Association, approved the contract Tuesday, the department said in a media release. The union consists of 120 officers and sergeants.

Union representatives had been pushing for a pay scale they said would be more in line with neighboring departments.

Under the new contract, members of the department's pension plan will also immediately begin contributing 7.5 percent, an increase from the current 6 percent.

Effective Oct. 1, the pension contribution rate will go to 9 percent.

The modification to the police pension plan will result in a long-term cost savings for the city of about $5 million.

The pension plan change "demonstrates everyone's commitment to act in a prudent manner in regard to controlling the cost of local government," Deputy Chief of Police Warren Merriman said in a statement.

The deal was five years in the making, according to Sgt. Sean T. O'Leary, the local representative for the Florida PBA.

"We finally worked through all the differences and came to resolution," O'Leary said. "It is a compromise, as most contracts and negotiations are."

A first-year Bradenton police officer earns around $39,000 a year, while a senior officer with 20 years of experience averages about $64,000 annually.

Last year, the union approved a second tier to the pension, O'Leary said.

Officers hired before July 1 have to give 20 years of service and be 45 and older to receive a full annual pension equivalent to 60 percent of the average of their top two annual salaries.

Those hired since and in the future will have to give 25 years of service and be 50 and older before they receive a full annual pension equivalent to 62.5 percent of the average of their top three annual salaries.

The new contract goes before the City Council at its regularly scheduled meeting at 8:30 a.m. March 12.

If approved, the contract will last until Sept. 30, 2016.

Future negotiations will depend a lot on what the economy does, according to O'Leary.

"I want to thank my membership, this was not an easy agreement to reach. There were a lot of strong feelings," O'Leary said. "While not everyone is happy, the majority was heard and hopefully this is a deal that everyone will find pleasing."

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