After more than a year of negotiations with Brookfield officials, the village’s police patrol officers and sergeants have a new two-year contract. The contract, passed by the Brookfield village board Monday night and overwhelmingly supported by the police rank and file, ends a 15-month impasse that saw an independent arbitrator called in to try to help resolve the dispute.
The new contract, which will run until April 30, 2007, calls for salary increases for police along with a change in the employee contribution for health insurance costs and a one-time seniority stipend for officers who have worked for the Brookfield Police Department for at least 25 years.
The seniority stipend was a main sticking point in previous negotiations between police and the village. Brookfield police officers previously were not granted seniority stipends. According to former Village Manager Dave Owen, police sought stipends initially for officers with at least 10 years on the force, a request that was subsequently changed to 25 years.
But Brookfield officials refused to budge on the issue of the stipends, and eventually Edwin H. Benn, an independent arbitrator, ruled that the village’s previous contract with police be extended one year until April 30, 2006 along with a salary increase for officers.
In the new contract, any officer who has completed 25 years of service with the Brookfield Police Department can increase his salary by 2 percent for any one contract year. The stipend option can be used only once, and will most likely be used as a retirement benefit for senior officers, whose pensions correspond to their final salary amount.
That new benefit is balanced by a provision in the contract that calls for officers to contribute more for health insurance premiums. Previously, officers contributed 5 percent of single or family health insurance premiums. Beginning Sept. 1, 2005, officers will now pay 10 percent of health insurance costs.
“It was a give and take process,” said Village President Michael Garvey. “This will help us reduce expenses for insurance. It’s been one of our biggest expenses and has been outpacing increases in revenues. It’s something the board will be looking to do in negotiations with other union employees of the village and other employees of the village. It’s a sign of the times.”
In addition, the contract calls for 4-percent salary increases for both years of the contract. Under the new contract beginning patrol officers will make $44,154 retroactive to May 1, 2005 and $45,920 beginning May 1, 2006. The most experienced patrolmen will make $65,081 beginning May 2005 and $67,684 in 2006.
The pay for entry-level sergeants beginning May 1, 2005 is $70,939, with sergeant with at least two years of experience making $74,884. On May 1, 2006 the pay for new sergeants will be $73,776, while those with at least two years will earn $77,837.
Police Chief Thomas Schoenfeld expressed relief that the new contract was ratified by both the village board and officers. A sergeant himself until October 2004, when he was promoted to chief, Schoenfeld has been on both sides of the negotiating table during the contract dispute.
“It’s very gratifying to me,” Schoenfeld said. “Certainly, anytime things get drawn out they definitely have an effect on morale. Like anything you’ve just got to compromise.”