Arlington PD, fire agree to pay cuts

ARLINGTON — Arlington police and fire department personnel have voluntarily agreed to take significant pay cuts in order to help prevent layoffs or further furloughs of city of Arlington employees.

Peter Barrett, union representative for the Arlington Police Department, and Greg Koontz, union representative for the Arlington Fire Department, agreed that the police and fire departments had originally approached the city months ago in response to severe drops in the city’s sales tax revenue, to ask how they could help the city diminish its budget deficit. According to Barrett and Koontz, the police and fire unions each agreed to relinquish benefits that they’d already been guaranteed in their contracts and are exploring further cost-saving measures that could benefit the city.

Because both the police and fire departments must have personnel on shift through the holidays, each department sought to trim the expenses typically incurred by these holiday overtime hours.

Barrett explained that Arlington Police personnel have agreed to take “shift extensions” in lieu of overtime hours, so that their time on shift will cost the department less. In return, the department will allow those who take shift extensions to take those extra hours off at other times. Barrett acknowledged that this will require diligent and creative scheduling to avoid incurring further shift extensions when those personnel take their extra hours off.

Koontz explained that Arlington Fire personnel will likewise continue to work through holidays, but only receive regular pay, as opposed to time-and-a-half or double-time, for the rest of the year. He deemed this an especially necessary sacrifice for the fire department, which will be opening a fire station and hiring four new personnel.

Barrett estimated that the police pay cuts should save the city close to $50,000, while Koontz anticipated that the fire pay cuts, which he calculated would average out to $3,000 per person for the year, should add up to roughly $60,000. Barrett and Koontz both see these measures as essential for the health of the city as a whole.

“We were actually afraid not to act,” Barrett said. “We don’t want to see any more furloughs or job losses. Hopefully, by spreading the burden of this deficit over a greater number of people, we can help the city close this gap.”

Barrett noted that police personnel are also pushing back on scheduled equipment purchases and paying for their own dry-cleaning, rather than putting it on the department’s tab, and added that they’re continuing to look for other ways of limiting spending and using money more efficiently, since “little things can add up over time, and if the bottom line helps the city save jobs and prevent further furloughs, that’s a big win.”

“This wasn’t something that we were obligated to do,” Koontz said. “We just felt it was the right thing to do.”

The Arlington City Council’s July 6 amendments to the police and fire union contracts came after the Council had already amended the employment contracts of city staff members and department directors to include four unpaid holidays and eight unpaid furlough days.

Speaking for the city of Arlington, Kristin Banfield expressed her gratitude not only to police and fire personnel, but also to all of the city’s employees, for the “huge sacrifices” they’ve made, on behalf of the city and each other.

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