Just two weeks after the village board ratified a new union contract with its public works employees, Riverside’s trustees voted, Dec. 19, to accept a new three-year deal for its police dispatchers and a one-year extension of the current contract for police patrolmen and sergeants.

The contract extension for police officers was approved unanimously, but the contract for dispatchers passed on a vote of 4-2 with trustees Joseph Ballerine and Ben Sells voting against it.

By extending the police contract, patrolmen and sergeants will not receive a raise in base pay for 2012. However, any officer who qualifies for a step raise will receive that bump in pay. According to Village Manager Peter Scalera, even with a base-pay freeze, the village will pay almost $10,000 more in total police salaries due to step raises in 2012.

But in getting the police union to accept a base-pay freeze for 2012, the village agreed it would not lay off any officers in 2012 and would make a good faith attempt to replace any officer who leaves the force voluntarily.

The village and police officers will try to hammer out a long-term deal during 2012.

Village trustees, meanwhile, approved a new three-year contract with police dispatchers that mirrors language on base raises for public works employees. Raises in base pay will be 0 percent in 2012, 1 percent in 2013 and 1.5 percent in 2014.

In addition, the contract has a provision that awards a nominal pay increase for receiving a degree from an accredited college or university – 1 percent for an associate’s degree, 1.5 percent for a bachelor’s degree and 2 percent for a master’s degree. The degree must be related to the work the employee does for the village.

The village also provides $3,000 annually to members of the union (there are four employees in the bargaining unit) for tuition reimbursement.

In 2012, dispatchers will pay no more than $92.26 per month for single health insurance coverage and $226 for family coverage. Those amounts will be increased by 8 percent in each of last two years of the contract.

While there was broad agreement over the one-year extension of the police contract, not all trustees were on board with the proposed three-year deal for dispatchers, who are also members of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Trustee Ben Sells voted against the contract for the same reason he voted against the contract for public works employees – step raises.

While base-pay raises for dispatchers are modest, step raises – particularly for more junior employees – increase pay well above those figures.

For example, a new, inexperienced hire in 2012 will make $37,513, according to the salary schedule in the contract. In 2013, that same employee, because of a step raise, will make $49,232, which is an increase in pay of 31.2 percent. In 2014, that employee would be paid $54,613, a raise over the previous year of 11 percent.

By the end of the contract, a new, inexperienced employee hired in 2012 would see a total pay increase of 45.6 percent. Step raises are also granted in years 4, 6, 8 and 10 of employment.

In reality, because not all of the current employees qualify for step raises, the impact of step raises for dispatchers will be $1,514 in 2012, $644 in the second year of the contract and $1,007 in the third year, according to Scalera.

Still, said Sells, the village ought to try to negotiate step raises out of the contract completely. Sells said he wanted union contracts to more closely resemble employment agreements in the private sector.

“What I find troubling is that with one breath we say it’s only a zero-, 1-, 1.5-percent raise, when, because of steps, in fact we are giving someone who’s a new hire a 15-percent raise after one year,” said Sells, who was referring to a new hire with experience, whose starting salary would be $42,453 in 2012.

“My point is not to change the game on existing employees, but it makes sense for future hires.”

Trustee Lonnie Sacchi said taking such a hard-line position would result in an impasse.

“It was clear you would have had no agreement then,” said Sacchi. “If you’re going to adopt positions that are deal-killers, then you’re not going to have a deal.”