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NILES — The city and police union have reached a tentative agreement in contract negotiations, closing out the last of several contracts the city was negotiating.
Niles City Council accepted the contract Wednesday following a 30-minute executive session.
The contract contains no raises and brings the Fraternal Order of Police Niles patrolmen contract in line with other contracts the city recently negotiated with the ranking police members and firefighters, said Niles Service Director Edward Stredney.
“There aren’t a lot of changes,” Stredney said. “We think this contract is fair to the police and the city.”
The officers will be responsible for paying 5 percent of their health care premium and all of their portion of their pension contributions — both perks the city used to pick up in full.
“Things are different for the city than it used to be. Money is tighter, and the union was very understanding and not unagreeable to the conditions we worked out,” Stredney said.
The contract also ends retirement incentives for people hired after April of this year and freezes the benefit for existing employees.
The majority of the savings in the contract will be realized in the future, Stredney said.
The health care contribution agreement the city came up with previously that was adopted by the other unions has translated into real savings for the city, Stredney said.
City Auditor Giovanne Merlo reported the city has spent about $2 million on health care costs this year and is expected to end the year at $2.8 million. Last year, costs were $3.5 million, Merlo said.
Negotiations were difficult, Mayor Tom Scarnecchia said in March, because he hated to ask the officers for concessions, but knew the city couldn’t afford to move forward without some kind of savings.
Niles has been in fiscal emergency since October 2014, when the Ohio Auditor gave it the designation for having deficit funds. The city’s general fund, which pays the salaries of police, was in distress.
Merlo said the fund is doing a lot better and now has a balance of about $2 million.
The contract will be in place through May of 2019.
Council on Wednesday also heard overtime expenses were trending down and Stredney said a company will be presenting a plan to council in the near future to install the city’s remaining 6,000 water meters.
The city’s water hydrants also are being reviewed. About 65 were out of order last year, but with grant money for replacements and repair work, about 30 still need to be replaced, about 30 need a repair and the water department is making minor repairs on about 20 of them, Stredney said.