Wellness Program Requirement Key For City

Neither party in the agreement reached between city officials and the unions for police and fire received all of their demands.

This is a statement being said by officials from both sides. The agreement means a greater percentage increase in salary for employees. However, the unions will also be paying more for their health insurance.

Salary for both the Jamestown Professional Firefighters Association Local 1772 and the Kendall Club Police Benevolent Association this year will increase 2.75 percent. The same percentage increase will occur again in 2015, which is the last year of the new four-year agreement. The agreement also retroactively included 2012 and 2013, when no new agreement could be reached between all parties.

For the past two years both unions continued to operate under expired contracts. Now with the new contract in place, all union employees will receive a retroactive 2 percent pay increase for 2012 and a zero percent increase in 2013.

Since 2000, the increase received each year by the police union has decreased until this new agreement. In 2000 and 2001, the Kendall Club received a 4 percent pay increase each year. In 2002 and 2003, they received a 3.5 percent increase. From 2004-2007, the group received a 3.25 percent increase. In 2008 and 2009, it was a 3 percent increase. Then in 2010 and 2011, their salary increased 2.51 percent each year.

Since 2000, the fire union’s salary percentage has increased and decreased. In 2000, it was a 3.35 percent increase. That followed with a 4 percent increase in 2001. Then in 2002, the increase was 3.2 percent. In 2003, it was a 3.8 percent increase. Then the salary increase became more stable with a 3 percent hike each year from 2004-2007. In 2008, the percentage increased to 3.5 percent, which was followed by a 3 percent increase in 2009. Then in 2010 and 2011 the percentage was 2.51 percent, the same as the police union.

The average salary for a police employee, with 57 union officers, for 2014 is $68,952. The base salary for 20 of the 57 officers will be $68,557. The base salary range of a current police officers is from $48,235, at the Officer 1 rate level, to $87,277 for a lieutenant.

The average salary for a fire employee, with 51 union firefighters, for 2014 is $59,509. The base salary for 22 of the 51 firefighters will be $62,774. The base salary range for a city firefighter is from $44,512, at the Firefighter 1 rate level, to $79,743 for a Lieutenant 4 rate level.

Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi said because of state laws, it is impossible for salaries to be decreased in new contracts for police and fire. He said, unlike in the private sector, payroll givebacks and salary reductions aren’t possible.

“I just can’t cut salaries,” he said. “The best we can do is to limit the increase on already negotiated and protected salary bases. The only way they can take a pay cut is if both sides agree to it. We work to minimalize the increase.”

The new contracts with the Kendall Club Police Benevolent Association and the Jamestown Professional Firefighters Association Local 1772 also includes a 1 percent health insurance premium increase in 2014 to 17 percent. In 2015, union members who participate in a wellness program will continue to pay 17 percent for their premium. Those who don’t participate will pay 22 percent for their health insurance.

How much the new health insurance policy will save the city is unknown. Joseph Bellitto, city comptroller, said it is difficult to quantify how much money the city could save through the wellness program. City fire and police employees by 2015 will be using a BlueCross BlueShield wellness program, which the health insurance company designed for its employees. Bellitto said in the first year BlueCross BlueShield did the wellness program, the company had around 50 percent participation. Now about four years later, they have 90 percent compliance from their employees.

“It is one of those things as far as trending costs it does take some time to really understand it,” Bellitto said. “The long-term projection is that an organization in a wellness program will see less of an increase compared to an organization that doesn’t have a wellness program. It will have a long-term effect for the employee, as far as costs, because they will be living a healthier lifestyle.”

Prior to the new contract agreement, both the police and fire union employees and retirees were all paying 16 percent for their health insurance premium since September 2010. For police, prior to that they all were paying 15 percent since the start of 2009. For fire, all were paying 15 percent since the start of 2008.