By Jason McCormick
Special to the Almanac
The Menlo Park City Council gave its blessing on May 19 to a collective bargaining agreement between the city and the union representing its police sergeants, finalizing a deal that includes additional reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses related to health care premiums, along with dental insurance. The agreement includes no pay raise.
"I want to thank our staff and police sergeants for working with us on this," said Councilman Peter Ohtaki. "I certainly am supportive of the substantive change related to covering health care benefits. I am pleased to support this agreement."
The council approved the agreement with the Menlo Park Police Sergeants' Association on a 4-0 vote, with Ray Mueller absent.
In a May 19 staff report, the city attributed the additional contributions, including a rise in cost of about 24 percent for medical coverage, to "the considerable health care cost increase" for employees since January 2015.
The new agreement, effective May 8 through June 2016, applies to eight supervising sergeants, and carries an annual impact of $30,000 on the city's budget, plus a one-time cost of $7,500.
Sgt. Sharon Kaufman, president of the sergeants' association, told the Almanac that the new agreement in effect delivers relief to the sergeants and their families.
"For our medical coverage, some of us were paying a considerable amount of money out of pocket due to increased costs of health care that took effect Jan. 1," Sgt. Kaufman said. "From a financial standpoint, bringing us to a level of medical reimbursement that's equal to what others within the city are currently receiving is among the most important changes to the contract."
Under the now-active terms for police sergeants, the city allocates one-time reimbursements of expenses incurred since January. Additionally, sergeants receive month-to-month health care contributions of about $2,086 for a family, $1,604 for a couple, and $802 for an individual. Employees who receive such funds may use them for any benefit permitted by law. A sergeant opting out of the city's health care benefit receives $349 monthly -- more than twice the previously allotted amount.
Also, the agreement specifies new terms governing sergeants' pay for categories of duties. The agreement awards a 5 percent pay increase to sergeants who perform duties normally assigned to higher-classification employees, which typically occurs when the department lacks staff at the higher level.
New terms also tighten the boundaries of holiday and overtime pay. Menlo Park Human Resources Director Gina Donnelly told the Almanac that the new approach reduces the potential for extraordinary payouts for overtime.
The new contract keeps intact an array of rules, such as binding arbitration. That process has come under fire by some in the community and the press following the Almanac's 2013 disclosure that a veteran Menlo Park police officer who was fired after being arrested with a prostitute while on duty got his job back, along with back pay of $188,000, as a result of a binding-arbitration ruling.