Margate Historic City Hall 1

Margate's Historic City Hall now houses the Fire Department, Historical Society Alliance museum and the municipal courtroom.

MARGATE — It’s not often that major employee contracts are settled before they expire.

On Dec. 21, the Board of Commissioners approved new four-year contracts with three municipal bargaining units. Margate Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association Local 41, Margate City Police Benevolent Association Local 65 and the Margate Employees Association signed off on the contracts earlier in December, Administrator Richard Deaney said.

Under the contracts, salary increases for police and firefighters will be 3 percent for 2018 and 2019, and 2.5 percent for 2020 and 2021.

Deaney, who negotiated the contracts on behalf of the city starting in August, said he is pleased they were approved before the start of the new year.

“In general, the goals for all three were achieved,” he said.

“It was an arduous task to achieve three contracts since August,” said Commissioner John Amodeo, who heads public safety for Margate and sat in on negotiations with the PBA and FMBA.

He said bargaining-unit negotiators understood the city’s position and worked around their issues.

PBA President Chris Taroncher said police officers are pleased with the new contract.

“We worked with the city and came to a mutual agreement that benefits both parties,” Taroncher said. “It was easy working with the city, and we are glad it’s resolved for a few years.”

Firefighter Brian Duffey, president of the FMBA, said negotiations were professional and both sides had to give a little to get what they wanted.

“It’s nice when you have a labor union and a municipality sitting across from each other to come up with an agreement that benefits both sides,” Duffey said. “The contract works out well for the city, but we feel we got a fair contract.”

Deaney highlighted changes in the contracts that will save the city money in the future, including increasing the number of years it takes to reach the top salary. Police and firefighter salary guides for all new hires are now based on 15 steps instead of 10.

For new hires, the starting salary for a rookie firefighter will be $45,035 at Step 1 — the same amount as firefighters hired after Jan. 1, 2013 — and increase to $48,735 in 2021. However, it will take a firefighter hired after Jan. 1, 2018, 15 years to reach the top salary of $104,736, the amount paid after 10 years to firefighters already on staff.

A starting salary for a new academy-level police officer is $37,506, and $43,936 for a Step 1 officer hired after Jan. 1, 2018. The top salary after 15 years for a new hire will be $106,393, while officers hired after Jan. 1, 2013, will receive $106,393 at Step 10.

“One of our objectives is to save money for taxpayers, but without jeopardizing the ability to get and retain good employees. Good employees should be paid properly,” Deaney said.

Longevity pay was eliminated for new hires in two of the three contracts, which saves about $80,000 per employee over a 25-year career, Deaney said. Additionally, longevity is vastly reduced in the PBA contract to include fixed longevity increases of $1,000 in year 20, $2,000 in year 21, $3,000 in year 22 and $6,000 in year 23, about one-tenth of what it was, Deaney said.

For those officers hired after 2013, longevity pay is 4 percent after 11 years, 6 percent after 15 years, 8 percent after 20 years and 12.5 percent after 23 years.

The new contracts save the city as much as $140,000 for new hires over the length of their careers, Amodeo said.

The board also approved an “innovative clause” in the Employee Association contract, which includes Public Works, allowing employees with 25 years of service to retire between the ages of 62 and 65, before they are eligible for Medicare. Employees would get a monthly stipend to be applied to their health insurance costs, Deaney said.

“There are people who have expressed desire to retire prior to age 65 but work simply because they don’t have any other health coverage,” Deaney said.

The maximum risk to the city would be about $35,000 over a three-year period, but the city expects savings on lower salaries paid to their replacements.

“It’s pretty innovative, and I’m happy to see it in the contract,” Deaney said.

Deaney said a retirement incentive recommended by Fire Chief Anthony Tabasso would include full daily pay for unused sick days for firefighters with 25 years of service who retire before June 2018, with a maximum payout of $80,000. The retiree has the option to receive a lump-sum payout or installments up to four years.

Deaney said two firefighters have expressed interest in retiring. Their replacements would be hired at a much lower salary, he said.

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