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Morris, police union reach deal on contract

Retroactive pact includes 3-percent pay hikes, city-paid insurance

After months of negotiations, the city of Morris and its police have settled on a contract.

The Morris City Council Monday approved a police contract for May 1, 2012, to April 30, 2015, by a 6-to-1 vote, with Alderman Don Hansen voting no. Alderman Barry Aldrich was absent.

The two major changes that were ultimately settled with the help of a federal mediator were regarding the raise percentage and insurance. The union members will receive a 3 percent raise annually for the length of the contract, and the city will pay all of their health insurance costs, said Mayor Richard Kopczick Wednesday.

"As the city has historically, (the city will pay for their insurance). They are guaranteed three years before the city can look at putting any cost on to the employees for health insurance," he said.

The union officers will receive retroactive pay back to May 1 and the contract obligations will be filled moving forward. In original negotiations, the union members wanted more than 3 percent.

Alderman Hansen was hoping the raise would be closer to 2 percent.

With the construction of a new police station inside the new Municipal Services Facility, and the city continuing to pay their insurance, he hoped they would settle for 2 percent raises over the next few years. Three percent raises annually adds up, he said after the meeting, and its hard to accept when non-government employees haven't received raises in years.

Alderman Randy Larson said he compared their contract to neighboring municipalities' and felt Morris' to be fair.

Alderman Bill Martin pointed out this was the first time the city and police have not had to go to arbitration for their negotiations and that the parties were moving in the right direction working together.

In other business, the council approved declaring a surplus in the Water and Sewer Capital Improvement Fund of $905,000. This surplus will be transferred to the General Fund to be used for the state’s Sales Tax Increment Distribution program.

The state matching program is for sales tax dollars generated in the Tax Increment Financing District. A TIF District freezes the assessed value of properties in the district. Any tax money generated from increases in value of those properties then goes into a special fund to be used to improve properties in the district.

The city will have to contribute $1.3 million to get the state’s match of $1.7 million, resulting in $3 million going into the TIF fund. The city already budgeted about $400,000, so it’s taking the $905,000 to meet the $1.3 million.

The plan is to pay back the water and sewer capital fund in payments of $300,000 over three years. With the transfer to the General Fund, the capital fund still has about $380,000, and the fund will get more money from incoming annexations.

The council also approved renewal of its agreement with Grundy County for animal control services. This year, the city is paying less for services, saving more than $100 a month.

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