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West Chester police get raises, but trustees unhappy with ruling

West Chester Twp. police officers and supervisors have ratified a new union contract mandated by a state conciliator. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
West Chester Twp. police officers and supervisors have ratified a new union contract mandated by a state conciliator. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

West Chester Twp. trustees think a labor ruling giving their police officers and supervisors what they wanted in a new contract failed to consider taxpayers.

The officers’ union contract proposal called for a $1,000 addition to base pay, plus a 2.5-percent increase retroactive to 2016 and 3-percent hikes this year and in 2018, which is what the fact-finder found. The sergeants and lieutenants got a 4-percent raise retroactive to last year and 3 percent this year and next.

“It was great from the perspective of the guys who work in our police department, who work hard and deserve it,” Trustee George Lang said. “But unfortunately it wasn’t fair at all to taxpayers of West Chester. The conciliator gave them everything they want but gave no concern to the taxpayers.”

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The trustees rejected the fact-finder’s recommendation earlier this year and instead proposed 3 percent for the officers’ base pay each year of the three-year contract.

Officers were originally asking for a $2,500 lump sum “equity adjustment” and a five percent increase the first year and four percent pay raises the next two years accepted the fact finders’ recommendation.

Because police cannot strike, when contract talks reach an impasse and a fact-finder’s recommendations aren’t agreed upon, the contract goes to a conciliator for the final decision. The conciliator decided the township police are underpaid compared to some of their peers in other communities and said the township was too conservative in its revenue projections for the police levy fund.

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“The conciliator agrees the township should be congratulated for its management of the fund,” conciliator Steven Ball wrote. “Clearly, however, the $11.3 million carryover reflects recovery from the recession and exceeds the township’s goal of a 25 percent carryover by at least an additional 50 percent. The employees obtained only a 1.5 percent increase in wages for the three years of the last contract, largely because of the conservative predictions of income and expenses.”

Trustee Board President Mark Welch was not happy with the new deal or the conciliator’s comment. He said the township can afford to pay the raises but it should not be penalized for good fiscal management.

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“We feel it’s one of those things where we were sort of penalized for our success,” Welch said. “We’ve been really watching our money in West Chester and we’re really doing well. This conciliator thought ‘hey, you’re doing well the cops should do well too.’ ”

Police union leaders and their attorney did not return calls for comment.