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Aurora police union, city reach agreement on contract

Updated: November 5, 2011 5:22PM

AURORA — The city of Aurora and the police union have reached an agreement on a contract for the next two years that includes raises and restructures officers’ health-care contributions.

Late Friday afternoon, the city announced they had agreed to a 1 percent raise for the 2011-2012 budget year and a 2 percent raise for the 2012-2013 budget year. In addition, officers with at least 10 years with the department will be given a $1,000 bump in 2011.

After intense negotiations between the city and the union for rank-and-file officers, both sides agreed to allow an arbitrator decide on four key areas: wages, health care, retirement health care and compensation time.

The city had offered a wage freeze for the contract year that began in March 2011, with a $1,000 bump for officers with more than 10 years’ experience. In the second year, the city offered 2 percent wage increases.

The union had sought a 2 percent increase as of Jan. 1, 2011, 3 percent increase as of March 5, 2011, and another 3 percent increase in March 2012.

Arbitrators typically can only choose one offer or the other. However, according to city documents, the arbitrator found both proposals unacceptable and suggested the city offer 1 percent in the first year. When the city agreed to this hike, the arbitrator ruled in its favor.

“This award marks tremendous progress for the city in controlling employee costs and provides taxpayers relief from unsustainable wage increases,” Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said.

The new contract changes the union members’ contribution for health insurance. Currently, officers pay 2.5 percent of their wages for health insurance. City officials argued that under this system, single employees were subsidizing employees with families and price shopping was discouraged. The new policy, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2012, will require officers to pay a higher percentage of the premium.

The arbitrator agreed with the union’s position that officers should be allowed to accumulate 480 hours of compensation time over the course of their career. The city also will pay less into the retiree health insurance for new employees.

On Friday, union president Dave Schmidt said he was not thrilled with the wage and insurance decisions. In particular, he did not think the city proved the current insurance system was dysfunctional or broken.

“We don’t think the city met their burden,” he said.

Negotiations between the city and the officers has been contentious. The city recently asked for concessions from the union after revenues were lower than anticipated. After making concessions the prior year, the union did not agree to any more, and eight officers were laid off.

The new contract is no guarantee that layoffs will be avoided in the future, although the wage increases are significantly less than they have been in the past.

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