Changes sought in police salaries

Officials negotiating a major restructuring of officer pay scales

April 09, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Worried about losing police officers to other jurisdictions, Howard County officials are planning a significant restructuring of officers' pay scales.

Union officials want the county to reduce from 19 to 12 years the time it takes an officer to reach the top of the scale, said Cpl. John Paparazzo, president of the Howard County Police Officers Association.

County officials confirmed that they are planning to restructure the scales, and they were hoping to conclude a deal last night in a closed-door meeting.

The pay scale ranges from $27,082 for an entry-level police recruit to $49,941 for a corporal on the force for 19 years.

Each step on the scale represents a 2.5 percent pay increase. A scale capped at 12 years would mean a 3.5 percent pay raise at every step, Paparazzo said.

The union also is asking that the starting and final salary within that scale be increased, which would increase pay at every step.

"We just aren't competitive anymore," said Paparazzo. "What we are having problems with is recruiting and keeping new officers."

The proposed changes are partly in response to pay increases granted police officers in other departments.

In February, Baltimore County officers were offered a four-year, $20 million contract, giving all officers a $3,500 raise, or 9 percent on average. Entry-level officers would start at $30,156.

Baltimore County's proposal "changed the degree [of negotiations] for everyone," said Cecil Bray, Howard County's deputy chief administrative officer.

Last month, Maryland State Police raised the entry-level salary to $30,735, a $2,000 increase, and Anne Arundel County officers received a 3 percent raise, bringing their entry-level salary to slightly more than $28,000.

The Howard County negotiations affect nonsupervisory categories: police recruit, police officer, police officer first class and corporal.

The county proposed a new pay scale a month ago, in response to the union's request for an across-the-board pay increase, Bray said.

In last night's negotiations, officials had hoped to determine what the entry and highest-level salaries would be and when the new scale would go into effect as part of a three-year contract.

Ray Wacks, the county budget director, would not say how much the various pay raises would cost, saying the talks are not finished.

"This is a very loose time," Wacks said. "A lot has changed in just the last 24 hours."

Paparazzo said the county has to stay competitive or officers will leave for better pay in other jurisdictions. "We are probably 20 percent or more behind our peers," he said, adding that 15 officers left for other departments in the last year.

While Howard officials concede the county has fallen behind, they said it is up to the union to decide what its funding priorities are: recruiting officers with high entry level salaries or ensuring that officers are not drawn away after five years with the department by better pay elsewhere.

"What is boils down to is that there is [a certain] amount of money available, and they have to decide how they want to use it," Bray said.

Before other jurisdictions negotiated their contracts, Howard County ranked fourth among seven departments in the region, said Sgt. Laura Lu Herman, a state police spokeswoman.

County firefighters are also hoping for a pay restructuring, on top of an across-the-board 3.4 percent increase.

Michael B. Rund, president of the Howard County Professional Firefighters Association, representing 200 people, said his group is hoping to compress its salary ladder from 20 to 16 years.

Firefighters also want to shave up to four hours from their 52-hour work week, which Rund said "is the highest in the metropolitan area." The union's next meeting with county officials is scheduled Tuesday.

"We're hopeful," Rund said.

Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 4/09/99

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