Grove City police officers will receive three pay raises through 2012, pending city council approval.

Grove City police officers will receive three pay raises through 2012, pending city council approval.

Police chief Joe Wise on April 19 announced local members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 9 ratified a three-year contract with the city that involves a 2-percent base-pay increase this year, and a 3.5-percent raise in both 2011 and 2012.

This year's 2-percent raise, however, won't take effect before May.

Council is scheduled to vote on the contract on May 17.

City officials consider the raises moderate, noting that the last contract gave police officers 4 percent a year in each of three years.

"It is a little less than what they're accustomed to," said Mike Wasylik, city public safety director. "I think (the police union) recognized the revenue stream is either flat, or basically, going negative. They were understanding of that."

Jeffry Simpson - FOP Lodge No. 9 executive board member and liaison to local officers - said Grove City police officers are pleased with the new contract.

"Based on the current economic climate, we felt like we got raises that were reasonable," Simpson said.

The new contract also will change the step-increase schedule for police officers hired after Jan. 1, 2010.

Current officers advance annually from step 1, reaching step 5 in five years.

Newly hired officers, however, will go through a nine-month probationary period before starting the clock for their first year of service, according to the newly ratified contract.

The step schedule for newly hired officers includes smaller increases each year.

Officers hired before Jan. 1, 2010 started at step 1 with $21.96 per hour, which is an annual salary of $45,676.

Officers hired after the first of this year start at the probationary step with $20.66 an hour, or $42,972 per year.

Newly hired officers will take five years and nine months to reach step 5, while current officers will take only five years. Both, however, will make the same rate at step 5 of $35.15 per hour, or $73,112 annually.

By 2011 and 2012, though, base rates in the step schedule will increase. Officers who have reached step 5, for example, will make $75,657 in 2011 and $78,312 in 2012, according to the contract.

Beyond the fifth year, officers begin to receive annual longevity bonuses. The bonuses start at $975 and can reach up to $1,900, according to the contract.

Wasylik said negotiations between the city and FOP lasted about four months.

He said the relationship between the two entities has been strong, which made bargaining talks run smoothly, even in tough economic times.

According to city community survey results, residents' opinion of the division of police has risen steadily since 2002, when 76 percent of residents considered police services "excellent or good."

In 2006, the approval rating rose to 81 percent. It rose to 87 percent last year.

Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said he is "very, very pleased" with the outcome of the negotiations and "pleased with the diligence of the negotiating teams and their openness."

Stage said he asked for no increase on police services expenses in the 2010 budget, because negotiations were under way at the time of the proposal.

His major concern was entry-level salaries for new officers, he said. He wanted to "better manage the front end of the new hires."

Also, he said managing compensation for newly hired officers reduces the possibility of laying off police officers later.

According to the 2010 budget, police compensation expenses totaled about $6.7-million last year. They are projected to reach about $7-million this year. That is almost 19 percent of total expenses requested in the 2010 budget.

ebrooks@thisweeknews.com