BRADENTON -- Union members of the Bradenton Police Department voted Monday to give employees a $1,500 bonus and change the pension plan for new officers to the department.
After negotiations, the police union approved the changes to a two-year contract set to expire Sept. 30. The contract revisions do not involve a raise.
"The officers went at least five years without a raise," Deputy Chief Warren Merriman said. "This was a way of providing officers with a lump sum for a job well done in reducing the city of Bradenton's crime for the last nine years."
The first change involves a one-time lump sum $1,500 bonus for any employee in the union with more than a year of service.
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The second change involved the addition of a second tier to the pension plan, which increases the minimum age and years served for retirement. It will also change the multiplier when calculating a retiring officer's pension payout.
Pension plan changes were agreed to in exchange for the bonus, according to Human Resources Director Barbara Hitzemann. Pension plan changes will affect any officer hired after June 1.
Officers previously had to put in 20 years service before retirement. Now they have to put in 25 years before retirement with full pension.
The changes will also raise the minimum age required for retirement from 45 to 50.
Pensions will be calculated differently now for officers coming into the department. Pensions had been calculated based on the two highest-paid years of service. Pensions now will be calculated based on the average of the five highest-paid years of service.
"The changes were agreed upon through a mutual cooperation trying to maintain the city's expenses," Merriman said. "The officers understand there are budget constraints."
Merriman also said tight budgets are not unique to Bradenton.
"It's occurring everywhere in the state of Florida," Merriman said.
New contracts will begin Oct. 1 and more changes could follow.
"We will go back into negotiations very soon for a new contract," Hitzemann said.
In spite of not being able to afford raises in the current contract, the department said bonuses will have a positive effect on officers who start out earning an annual salary of $41,827.
"It's also going to serve as a morale booster," Merriman said.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.