The 2020 budget that’s included in the Bloomington city council’s meeting packet for this Wednesday is virtually the same as the one that was presented in a series of departmental hearings in August.
It does not include, as a couple of councilmembers had suggested, the creation of a top-level position to direct the city’s action to meet goals related to climate change. The administration’s budget also does not include any additional police officer positions—beyond the two extra officers that were already a part of the budget proposal. The possibility of adding more officers had been suggested by some councilmembers.
Included in the meeting packet is a memo to the council from the city’s director of human resources, Caroline Shaw, that says in writing what councilmembers heard from police union representatives at their most recent meeting, last Wednesday: No contract agreement has been reached between the city and the police.
That means the 2020 budget will reflect no increase in basic compensation for police officers. According to Shaw: “…Officer First Class and Senior Police Officers will maintain their current salaries.”
The current police contract ran from 2015 to 2018, and expired on Dec. 31, 2018. Officers have been working under an “evergreen clause” that goes through the end of 2019. Councilmembers heard on Wednesday from Paul Post, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 88, that the the city administration is willing to go into 2020 without a signed contract.
In a written statement sent to The Beacon, city attorney Mike Rouker, who’s a part of the city’s bargaining team, called the negotiating process “lengthy and difficult.” Rouker said, “… the City continues to be willing to work toward an agreement that provides fair salary increases in keeping with those awarded to other City employees and that demonstrate responsible allocation of limited public funds.”
Based on union remarks at the council’s Sept. 4 meeting—which themes were reprised last week—and Rouker’s statement, the city and the police union take different positions on most of the issues they’re discussing: staffing levels, retention rates, recruitment challenges, as well as the basic question of pay.
One point of agreement appears to be a recognition of the department’s high standards. Rouker said, “The City has great respect and appreciation for our police officers. In 2018, our police department achieved CALEA certification, demonstrating its compliance with the most rigorous standards in contemporary law enforcement…We are proud of our BPD officers and their commitment to excellence.”
Both Rouker and Post pointed to the swearing in of four new officers on Sept. 10 as a significant event. The police union sees the four additional officers as leaving the city still four officers short of the 103 currently budgeted staffing level. The union sees the number as too low, in part because it leaves Bloomington with fewer police officers (per 1,000 residents) than other comparable college towns, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics.
Also a part of the staffing equation is the amount of overtime that has to be worked by officers, which union officials say contributes to poor morale. On Wednesday, Jeff Rodgers, who’s served for 13 years with the BPD, added in the dollar value of comp time to the overtime costs that he’d given the council on Sept. 4.
Reducing overtime costs by is a stated goal for BPD this year. In the question-and-answer document provided as part of the city council’s information packet, the administration responds to a question from Councilmember Steve Volan about overtime in the police department.
Q: #20 Volan: With the struggle you’ve had to keep positions full, how are you going to decrease overtime by 5%?
A: I don’t believe I will meet the goal of decreasing overtime in 2019.
About staffing levels, Rouker said, “With 99 of the 103 full-time officer positions for which the City budget allocates currently filled, we believe we are adequately staffed for a city of our size.”
Rouker’s statement also talks about additions to civilian positions as a factor in assessing the adequacy of sworn positions:
In fact the City has increased personnel in the Police Department. During 2017, 2018, 2019, and now with the proposed 2020 budget, ten-and-a-half full-time-equivalents have been added to the Police Department. Five of the added positions are for sworn officers, and the others are for civilian personnel. Adding civilian staff can make a big difference, as they can take over tasks that do not need to be performed by uniformed personnel and thus free up officers so that officers can focus on traditional law enforcement functions.
On Sept. 4 and last Wednesday, union officials pointed to retention and recruitment as a challenge. On Sept. 4, Rodgers told the council that for the four years between 2012 and 2015 BPD had 22 officers leave. From 2016 up to now, just shy of the next four-year period, 44 officers have left, Rodgers said.
At last week’s meeting, Post said, around the time that the four new officers were sworn in, “Another senior officer announced he’s leaving the department next month. He is yet another example of an experienced officer who is choosing to leave Bloomington for an agency with higher pay and better benefits,” Post said.
To support their contention that recruitment is a challenge, Rodgers said on Sept. 4 that in 2019, BPD had 35 people show up to its hiring process. He then ticked through the larger numbers for other police departments: Mooresville (58); Columbus (85), Jeffersonville (80); Lawrence (143); Greenwood (150); Fishers (60); Carmel (87); Evansville (109).
Rouker responded to the retention and recruitment issue by saying, “The attrition rate to which the Fraternal Order of Police negotiators have referred is on par with attrition rates across City as an organization and is consistent with national municipal turnover rates. There is no crisis in officer retention at BPD necessitating a significant pay increase. Nor is Bloomington experiencing any unusual problem with recruitment.”
On the question of pay, union officials have cited comparative statistics with all other departments in the state that put Bloomington somewhere in the mid-range for pay For comparable departments, Bloomington’s department ranks in the bottom quarter, they say.
In his statement, Rouker compares possible compensation increases for Bloomington police officers to increases for other city employees, as opposed to the police pay in other departments across the state. Based on Rouker’s statement, the city has offered police a half percent greater increase than other city employees:
[W]e offered a 10.25% salary increase over the next four years, an annual rate of more than 2.5 percent—exceeding the 2 percent raise non-union City employees will receive in 2020 and more than any other union employees are getting in their contracts.
The base pay currently in the 2020 budget for a police officer first class, not considering longevity pay, or speciality pay, is $52,916.
Under state statute, the city council does not have the option to increase budgets, only to decrease them.
The budget that the council hears at first reading on Wednesday won’t get a vote—actually a series of votes on a half dozen different appropriation ordinances—until two weeks later, on Oct. 10. The special meeting for the budget vote is a Thursday, a departure from the regular Wednesday schedule. The council is also holding a special work session this Friday at noon.
Here’s the Wednesday meeting information packet split into parts: Part 1 includes the 2020 budget with commentary on some of the minor changes; Part 2 is a set of councilmember questions with an answers from the administration.