Published: Saturday, March 17, 2012, 10:00 AM Updated: Saturday, March 17, 2012, 5:06 PM
HOLYOKE – The city should treat last week’s court ruling about educational pay for police officers as a way to save $500,000 a year, Council President Kevin A. Jourdain said.
But Mayor Alex B. Morse said last week he was still studying the March 7 ruling of the state Supreme Judicial Court and will be mindful about treating police fairly.
Police union President James J. Bartolomei said he hopes the city stands by officers and fully funds the incentive.
The court ruled that municipalities aren’t responsible for 100 percent funding of police education benefits, known as the Quinn Bill. That means that with the state having ended its paying of 50 percent of such costs, cities and towns don’t have to pay the state’s share, the court said.
Holyoke pays police officers about $1 million a year for the Quinn Bill. That means the state’s unfunded share is $500,000, officials said.
“I’m leading the charge on this one,” Jourdain said. “As much as I love our police, the city can’t afford it. We’re certainly not going to handle it with tax increases to the taxpayers.”
The 42-year-old law requires that officers with an associate’s degree get an increase of 10 percent of their base pay, those with a bachelor’s get a 20 percent pay increase and those with a master’s get a 25 percent pay increase.
An officer making $50,000 a year, depending on the college degree, would get annual bonuses of $5,000, $10,000 or $12,500.
Morse said his administration was studying the court ruling.
“I think we have to be careful about what message we send to the hard-working men and women of the Police Department before we make any decision,” Morse said.
The 91 members of Local 388, International Brotherhood of Police Officers understands the city’s financial bind. But officers hope officials and taxpayers understand that a recognition of the city’s finances was what led the union to agree to its current, two-year contract that included zero percent pay increases, Bartolomei said. The contract expires June 30.
“We’re hoping that the mayor is going to stand by his commitment to education and fully fund the complete Quinn Bill,” Bartolomei said.
Negotiations on a new contract have yet to begin, he said.
The state’s share of the incentive dropped to $5 million for each of the past two fiscal years. No funding is in the current state budget for Quinn Bill payments and Gov. Deval L. Patrick did not recommend funding of the incentive for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
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