By Trevor Busch
The Taber Police Association and the Town of Taber have inked a new three-year collective agreement that will see officers receive a total 5.25 per cent salary increase by 2021.
Following closed session discussion at the April 23 meeting, council voted unanimously to accept the changes put forth to the collective agreement between the town and the association for Jan. 1, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2021, and authorized CAO Cory Armfelt to sign the agreement.
“It’s in the appropriate range that you would expect across the province, as I understand it,” said Mayor Andrew Prokop. “The Town of Taber is happy with the results, the Taber Police Association is also happy with that. As a result, the negotiations went smoothly overall. It’s right in line with the standard inflation rate.”
The per cent of increase per year over the three years of the contract has been spread evenly at 1.75 per cent per year.
“We are still one of the lowest, if not the lowest, paid municipal police service in Alberta while still providing the citizens of Taber excellent service,” said Cst. Andrew Evanson, representing the Taber Police Association and its officers. “The negotiations went well. We approached the negotiation with our comparators, the town did the same, and we struck a fair balance in the end.”
CAO Cory Armfelt indicated the town had done extensive background research heading into the negotiations, which helped make the process a smooth transition.
“I can say that the negotiations with them were very amicable. The town did a lot of research with regard to the other police contracts that exist within the province, from the perspective of what is in there in terms of the contract, and what had been settled recently from a financial perspective. We were actually very open with the police association with the level of homework that we had done, and it was much more of a discussion than a negotiation a lot of the time.”
Striking the right equilibrium between fiscal responsibility to taxpayers and the interests of the police service and its officers can often be a precarious balancing act.
“Overall I think the negotiations I thought went very well,” said Chair Ken Holst of the Taber Municipal Police Commission. “It’s always a tough thing to try to be able to be balanced and have them properly rewarded and stay within reach of the other police services in the province, yet understanding the fiscal responsibility we have to the town and to the citizens, and to find that balance to have proper, effective policing here in the town. So we thought this was very fair numbers in comparison to what’s happening in other communities, and what was needed here in their contract. We were actually very happy with those numbers.”
Combining the previous contract with the new contract, officers will see a 10.75 per cent salary increase over six years by 2021.
In 2016, the previous three-year police association collective agreement saw a total 5.5 per cent increase broken down into one per cent in 2016, 2.5 per cent in 2017, and two per cent in 2018.
“This was similar but we didn’t really use that as one of the reference pieces,” said Holst. “We had some excellent help from John Orwa (town finance director). He had spreadsheets in regards to the costs — what those percentages actually mean, so we were able to get costs in dollar values — so that really helped with the negotiation of what the budget held in the three-year rolling budget.”
Other changes in the new agreement will see the shift differential increase from $1 per hour to $1.50 per hour, and paid benefits moved to a 90 – 10 split.
“We’re trying to be similar to other services within the province, and yet still be meeting the needs specific to the size of service that we have, in regards to the need for overtime, for banking time, for the benefits that are required and keeping up with those needs,” said Holst.
The 2018 budget for the TPS rang in at $3,777,862, which was funded through taxes ($2,557,946, or 68 per cent), government grants ($551,832, or 15 per cent), fine revenue ($547,500, or 14 per cent), and sales and user fees ($120,584, or three per cent).
Of this expenditure, salaries and benefits are by far the greatest percentage of dollars spent ($2,974,522, or 79 per cent), followed by contracted and general services ($277,039, or seven per cent), amortization ($190,001, or five per cent), materials, goods and supplies ($144,700), purchases from other governments ($76,000), and internal charges ($115,600, or three per cent).
Actual 2018 expenses were $3,564,874, which was $212,988 under budget.