News Item:
Troutdale and police union agree to new three–year contract
02/21/2013
TROUTDALE, OR — The city of Troutdale and its police union have settled on a contract after an arbitrator sided with the union on a health insurance issue.

The Troutdale City Council approved the contract at its Tuesday meeting. Arbitrator Alan Krebs last month issued an opinion supporting the union health plan, which has a deductible half the size of the one the city proposed.

Except for their division over health insurance, the city and the Troutdale Police Officers Association agreed on all aspects of the contract, including no cost of living wage increases for three years. City staffers, not the council, handled contract negotiations.

"It went through the process, and it seems like a fair agreement," concluded Norm Thomas, president of the city council.

The three–year agreement lasts until June 2014 and would have begun in July 2011 if there had not been a dispute. Police officers cannot strike by state law, which requires arbitration to resolve contract impasses.

The 17 union members' health plan will include a $200 deductible for a single person and a $600 deductible for a family, which is double the deductible of the union's last health insurance plan.

The city proposed a $500 deductible per person and a $1,500 deductible per family. The union plan will cost the city $35,600 more per year than the city's proposed plan.

"It was a more cost–effective proposal from the city standpoint than what the union proposed," said Erich Mueller, the city finance director.

The city's proposal included covering office visits to a doctor with a $20 co–pay rather than the deductible. The union said the price of more extensive medical care with a higher deductible would overshadow the short–term benefit of the co–pay.

"In a year where nobody got sick or hurt you'd probably be saving money, but that's not the way it works for us," said police Det. Greg Vining, union representative.

He said the city's proposal would have negatively impacted officer morale.

The union agreed to a 2 percent increase to their share of the insurance premium, which now is 11 percent. The city will pay the rest. The union's payments on the premium will not be retroactive, as the city had requested.

The city contended that it could not afford the union's plan.

"It has not been sufficiently shown that by incurring the cost of the association proposal the city would then be unable to either reasonably meet its need for other services or to maintain reasonable reserves," Krebs writes in his opinion.

The city has a shortfall of $337,000 in the adopted 2012–13 budget, Mueller said. Plus, the city's contribution to the Public Employees Retirement System will rise from 11 percent to 15 percent later this year.

Krebs cited other cities that are bearing the weight of PERS cost increases. He wrote that, based on comparable cities, compensation for Troutdale police, including health compensation, is below average.

He said the city's proposed plan "would not be helpful to the recruitment or retention of employees."

Daley, Jillian. "Troutdale and police union agree to new three–year contract". The Oregonian. February 15, 2013. http://www.oregonlive.com/gresham/index.ssf/2013/02/troutdale_and_police_union_agr.html