Westerville firefighters will see 2.5-percent wages increases each year over the next three years, while at the same time paying for more of their own health insurance.
Westerville City Council approved a three-year contract, effective Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2015, with the Westerville Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 3480 at its April 16 meeting.
Union members "overwhelmingly" approved the contract the previous week, Westerville Fire Chief Bernie Ingles told council.
The contract covers about 85 employees, said Westerville Administrative Services Director Adam Maxwell.
The cost of the raise over the next three years totals $1.3 million, Maxwell said. However, he said, firefighters agreed to a lower-than-standard raise for the duration of the contract in recognition of the squeeze the city's fire fund has faced with revenues lost due to decreased property values and increased property tax delinquencies.
"They recognize the fire fund is in more difficult financial position than our general fund, and they were willing to work with us to make sure our fire fund stayed in good shape," Maxwell said. "It's not in the best of condition now."
The change in health care will take the covered employees from the 10 percent share they have traditionally paid to 12 percent this year and to 15 percent for the remaining two years of the contract, Maxwell said.
That brings the contract in line with changes made in contracts with the city's other two collective-bargaining groups, he said.
Maxwell said that the change in healthcare would save the city an estimated $156,000 over the next three years, assuming that healthcare costs didn't rise. The city's healthcare costs increased 7 percent over the last year, he said.
"The savings isn't great in the first year or the second year, but assuming these changes stay in place over the years, that cost savings will increase," Maxwell said. "Over time, the savings will add up for the city."
Ingles said city and union officials have been in negotiations since Nov. 1. The previous contract expired at the end of last year, and the new contract will go into effect retroactively to Jan. 1.
Ingles said he is grateful to the union members for being sensitive to the fire fund's financial position in reaching a contract agreement.