Harrison Township refuses to address police union’s pension enhancement request | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Harrison Township refuses to address police union’s pension enhancement request

Brian C. Rittmeyer
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Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review

Harrison commissioners will not entertain a request from its police officers union to enhance their pensions under the existing contract.

Teamsters Local 249, which represents the township’s 12 rank-and-file officers, asked the township to consider enhancements to their pensions as they had for police Chief Mike Klein, said Keith Frank, vice president of Local 249.

William Poston, the township’s police commissioner, said the township will not consider changing the contract until the two sides begin talks for a new one next year.

The township’s officers are working under the terms of a three-year agreement that runs through 2020. Negotiations for a new contract will start in June.

Changing pension provisions for the officers would require opening the contract, Township Manager Rich Hill said.

Poston was adamant about not opening the contract.

“We have a contract,” Poston said. “We’re not going to break the contract.”

Police officers contribute 5% of their compensation to the pension fund. For 2020, the township will contribute $127,607, most of which is covered by state aid.

Frank said the union approached the township with three proposals to consider — lifting the retirement age requirement, now 65 years and 10 months; providing a $100 monthly pension payment increase for each year an officer works past 25 years; and offering a deferred retirement option plan, which commissioners approved for Klein.

Klein is not a represented by the union. He could not be reached for comment.

Frank said the union will not take its requests any further, such as by taking legal action, and will honor the contract they have.

“It was not an attack on the chief. We support the chief’s package,” Frank said. “If you’re going to give an enhancement for one person, the chief, we should give an enhancement for others as well.”

Frank said the union has a good working relationship with the township and does not feel their request was out of order.

“These guys go out there every day and they work for their community. They risk their lives. Their families are at risk,” he said. “Being able to retire is an important factor of what we as Teamsters and the union representatives are trying to protect for them — getting them a retirement, a real retirement, and have a good life after they’ve put in their 25 or 30 years with the township.”

Officers become eligible for retirement at age 55 with 25 years of service.

If officers work a 26th year, they can receive a $100 per month increase in their pension payment, but nothing more for additional years, Frank ­said.

Frank said the union would want officers to receive another $100 per month increase for each additional year they work past 25 instead of just one.

Klein, who is 61 and could have retired six years ago, has been given an additional $500 per month increase in his pension payment.

Under his deferred retirement option plan that started Aug. 1, Klein’s monthly pension payment will accumulate for 39 months, and he will receive it upon retiring in November 2022, according to Hill.

During this time, Klein is considered to be retired but still working for the township as police chief, Hill said. His base annual salary is $99,000; his actual compensation is higher.

Klein is required to retire at the end of the plan.

Klein’s base pension, half of his final average three-year salary, is close to $5,500 per month. The additional $500 per month increases that to just under $6,000 per month during the 39 months and for the life of his pension, according to Hill.

Based on that, when he retires Klein will receive $233,000, plus interest earnings that Hill said will be calculated annually.

Hill said the 39 months that Klein is on the plan will help the township with the transition to a new chief. During this time, he said officials can evaluate how they’d want to replace him, through a promotion in-house or going outside the department to hire the new chief.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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