Board of Selectmen Will Vote on New Police Contract Tonight

Police have been working without a new contract since July 1, 2011.

The will vote tonight on a collective bargaining agreement negotiated with and ratified by the police union.

The special session is expected to begin at 7 p.m. in the community room of the .  

The vote represents the end of a drought in the approval of a new agreement between the town and the police, whose last contract, which ran for four years, expired on June 30, 2011.

Municipal firefighters continue to work beyond the expiration date of their contract, June 30, 2010.

Under state statutes, if both a town and a union wish to continue negotiations beyond the expiration date of a contract they may do so as long as both parties agree to request waivers against binding arbitration with the state, according to a spokesperson with the Department of Labor. 

The new contract comes at a time when Bart Russell, executive director of the Council of Small Towns, observed that he has seen a shift in contracts away from the defined benefits pension plans public sector employees historically received.

State Rep. Vin Candelora, who represents North Branford, noted that North Branford began a switch from pensions that are described as defined benefits to pensions that are described as defined contributions in its municipal contracts more than a decade ago.  

Under a defined contributions pension plan, a town sets aside a certain sum each year toward the monies a municipal employee receives upon retirement rather than guaranteeing a municipal employee a specified sum when he or she retires.

“It’s a sign of our economic times,” the state legislator said of the change municipal contracts reflect.  “Towns are trying to plan long-term.”  

He noted that municipalities are contending with anemic growth in their grand list.

“That could be a trade-off in some cases,” he said, observing that pensions at the state level are only 47 percent funded and may be insolvent by 2019. “For unions to have a solvent retirement plan for the future, it may result in less money for retirement.”

“The struggle now is that towns cannot afford defined benefit plans.  With the stock market underperforming, it’s only made matters worse.”

“A lot of towns kick the can down the road,” he said of shifts in retirement plans that the private sector addressed years ago with the creation of the 401(k). “It’s a sensitive issue.”

In North Haven, the supervisors union and public works union have defined contributions pension plans, according to Director of Finance Ed Swinkowski. 

Swinkowski and others in the police and Town Hall could not comment on the provisions the BOS will review tonight.


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