EAST PEORIA — The City Council will vote Tuesday on a new contract with its police union that includes wage increases slightly higher than raises recently given other city employees. The increases were approved by an arbitrator last month after contract negotiations between the city and East Peoria Policemen's Benevolent Labor Committee reached an impasse over wages last spring.
"We presented our position, the union presented its position and much to our dismay the arbitrator sided with the union," city attorney Dennis Triggs said Monday.
The proposal calls for an increase of 2 percent in the first year retroactive to May 1, 2017, and 2.25 percent in the second and third years of the contract. The city's final offer before an impasse was reached was a 1.5 percent increase each year.
By law, arbitrators don't split the difference between proposals during an impasse.
A likely compromise would have been 1.75 percent raises, "but the arbitrator picks one side or the other."
The police raises come at a time of fiscal challenges for East Peoria with declining revenues and increasing expenses creating around a $1 million budget shortfall. The council is one vote short of implementing a half-cent sales tax and for years has refused to raise property taxes on its portion of the East Peoria tax bill. Next year's budget spends little money on capital expenses.
The council has challenged City Administrator Jeff Eder to come up with a plan that finds savings in department cuts and more efficient operating practices without decreasing services, laying off workers or raising taxes. Commissioner Gary Densberger has said that in this time of fiscal challenges, the council should take a hard look at city salaries and be stingier with raises. Commissioner Tim Jeffers said he intends to support the proposal.
"While the option is there to contest the (arbitrator's) ruling in court, our legal team believed there is very little chance of success with a large and expensive risk if we lose," Jeffers said Monday. "My view is it will be approved by our council, with a couple likely to vote 'no.'
According to Triggs, the city has negotiated raises of 1.75 percent with public works, fire and emergency dispatch employees.
Police union president Curt Darlington could not be reached for comment Monday.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.