Annapolis police union accuses city of bad faith ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

June 23, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Annapolis' police union is threatening to charge the city with unfair labor practices after the City Council's approval Monday of a $38.2 million budget that includes only enough money for a 2 percent raise.

Angry police officers called the City Council's move to lower the property tax rate by 9 cents a "political year ploy" and vowed to begin an aggressive campaign to make the public aware of their concerns.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins and the council voted 6-3 Monday night to approve the spending plan that would give homeowners a 9-cent tax break -- from $1.80 per $100 of assessed value to $1.71. Aldermen Carl O. Snowden and Samuel Gilmer and Alderwoman Ellen Moyer opposed the plan.

The vote infuriated many of the city's 500 workers, who were hoping for a bigger raise.

C. James Lowthers, secretary of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 that represents Annapolis' 120 police officers, accused the city of not bargaining in good faith. Mr. Lowthers said he expects to file an unfair labor relations charge against the city and ask for an arbitrator.

"I had a tentative agreement with the city on the Yarger study," he said yesterday, referring to a recently commissioned report of government jobs.

The study called for 5 percent raises for most employees on their next two anniversaries, but council members sharply criticized the recommendations for even heftier salary increases for department heads. The women on the council also questioned whether the proposal was biased against female employees.

Spurred by the council's objections, Mayor Hopkins scrapped the report and suggested instead using most of the money set aside for raises to reduce the property tax rate. He initially wanted to cut the tax rate by a nickel.

Even with the 9-cent break, most homeowners in Annapolis will face a tax bill higher by 7.1 percent because of increased assessments. Last year, the city kept the tax rate steady, but higher assessments pushed up the average payment 9 percent.

Officer John Miller, a six-year police veteran and shop steward, dismissed the tax cut yesterday as "a political year ploy to get re-elected." The city could be forced to raise taxes as early as next year if assessments drop, he said.

The police union plans to take one-page advertisements in newspapers and hand out leaflets to inform the public about its concerns with the contract under negotiation, said Sgt. John Mellon, a 19-year veteran.

Officers are most worried by the prospect of having to pay 3 percent more for the same health benefits and losing their disability benefits. The city wants to reduce the benefits of those injured in the line of duty from two-thirds of their salary to 20 percent for the first 10 years and 2 percent for each additional year they've served.

Four months ago, a corporal was shot and wounded while three other officers narrowly escaped injury when a gunman ambushed them in an apartment off Clay Street. Officer Miller warned that a loss in disability benefits could cause officers to be hesitant to take risks that could cause permanent injuries.

"You'll be thinking, 'I could get hurt in there -- there goes my family, there goes my livelihood,' " he said.

Alderman Sam Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat, attempted Monday night to come up with $500,000 to continue current health benefits for city employees.

But his colleagues on the council said they had approved a motion to lower the tax rate and that health benefits were negotiable.

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