County police sergeants approve 3-year contract

Labor deal decided on `very close' vote, provides 15% raise

April 12, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

On what was described as a "very close" vote, Anne Arundel County police sergeants approved a labor contract that will guarantee them salary increases totaling at least 15 percent over the next three years.

"I'm happy it passed," said Sgt. Bret Ballam, president of the Anne Arundel County Sergeants Association, which represents 72 sergeants. "Now we can get back to the business of policing."

Sgt. Tim Dailey, the union's election chairman, said 58 of the 72 sergeants voted.

Dailey would not divulge the exact tally for and against the three-year deal, saying only, "It was very close."

In addition to 5 percent annual pay raises, sergeants' retirement benefits will improve under the labor agreement, Ballam said.

In the second year of the contract, sergeants with 20 years of service will be eligible for retirement-deferral benefits, which will allow them to keep working while their accrued pension funds are placed into an account guaranteeing annual growth of 8 percent.

"This was very important to our membership," said Bryan Heger, the union vice president. "When we surveyed the membership [on proposals for the new contract], this was their second priority. And it was a close second."

The No. 1 concern of all sergeants was pay, Ballam said.

The county's 520 police officers, who are represented by the Fraternal Order of Police, were guaranteed a 17 percent salary increase over the next three years under the contract they ratified last month.

To earn more than officers

The salaries of some sergeants will increase more than 17 percent, because the new agreement restructures their pay scale so that by the third year all will earn more than police officers they supervise, Ballam said.

"That disparity needed to be corrected," he said, noting that 27 sergeants in the county earn 5 percent to 10 percent less than some of the officers they supervise.

In some cases, Ballam said, police officers have or would have been forced to take pay cuts to receive a promotion to sergeant.

Ballam said the settlement does not completely satisfy the union membership because they will earn less than many sergeants with the state police and police departments in Howard and Baltimore counties.

"Realistically, I know we can't correct everything with one contract," Ballam said. "We've been behind for eight years."

By the end of the contract, Anne Arundel sergeants at the top of the scale will be receiving $64,594, about 9 percent less than a Baltimore County sergeant's top pay of $70,593, according to union officials.

Pay for starting sergeants in Anne Arundel will be $43,763 -- $20 more than the wage for beginning Baltimore County sergeants.

"We're at least heading in the right direction," Ballam said.

3 percent raise last year

Last year -- like all county employees -- police sergeants received 3 percent raises.

In 1998 and 1997, they received less than 2 percent. In 1996 and 1995, they didn't receive a raise.

But this year, county officials said public safety employees' pay was a priority.

The sergeants "are a very important part of our police," said county Personnel Director Randall Schultz. "We think this is a great start toward working with them in future years."

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