Council tables police salary hikes
Phoenixville officials delay decisions on raises for 2 officers
PHOENIXVILLE >> Two agenda items aimed at giving two police officers a raise in pay were put on hold for now as borough council tries to determine how much it will cost.
In a 5-3 decision, council tabled a recommendation to credit Officer Anthony Duchnosky’s salary for his prior police service. Council members Jonathan Ewald, Catherine Doherty and Jeremy Dalton dissented. Council also tabled a recommendation to compensate Lt. Thomas Sjostrom’s salary to that of former police Chief William Mossman’s retroactive to Sept. 12, until a new chief is selected. Doherty dissented again. Council member Michael Kuznar was absent for the second vote having been disconnected from a teleconference call.
The issue with Sjostrom’s salary was discussed during executive session.
With Duchnosky, Sjostrom explained that there is a provision in the police contract that allows the borough to credit the salary for an officer with at least six months of prior police experience.
“So if an officer comes to our department with six months of service or more, it gives us that option to credit them six months faster until they’re at 90 percent (of their full salary),” he said. “They would still wait a year to get to their 100 percent. Instead of waiting two years, it expedites it to a year and a half.”
Council member Jon Ichter II seemed to bristle at the idea of speeding up the process of paying Duchnosky his full salary.
“We added in the additional police officer because we were told it would be X percentage of salary to cover,” he said, “and now we’re speeding that up so we’re paying even more sooner, which is what we were told we weren’t going to do.”
Mayor Michael Speck reminded Ichter that Duchnosky’s contract is already budgeted at 100 percent.
“This just permits us to go from 80 to 90 percent,” he said.
Ichter said he understood the rationale but the board was sold on the idea it would only have to pay 80 percent of the salary. He then asked why Duchnosky’s contract was being credited now instead of in March when he was first sworn in. Borough Manager Jean Krack explained there is a six-month probationary period to determine whether a new hire will be a good officer.
Unsatisfied, Ichter questioned why council wasn’t informed at the end of the probationary period that the salary hike was a possibility. He also reiterated his frustration for believing the borough would only have to pay 80 percent.
“I don’t care what we budgeted,” he said. “We kept talking about what we’re paying and now all of the sudden we’re paying more.”
Duchnosky and Officer Anthony Gray, Phoenixville’s 29th and 30th officers,
were sold to council as having a grace period where they were paid 80 percent of their salary, Ichter said. The difference between the two was that Gray’s salary would increase to 100 percent in 2017 because it was unbudgeted, Krack said. Sjostrom then said Gray would also be eligible for the same type of salary credit.
Gray took the oath of office July 12.
Council Vice President Dana Dugan said she was frustrated over the fact that because Gray would only received 80 percent of his salary, it would give council “wiggle room” in the budget but that hasn’t happened.
“Since then some of the things that would have gone as budget transfer requests have actually been taking out of the general fund because we’re pretty much out of money I guess in the police department,” she said. “Not only are we over that already, but now we’re going to make it even higher than what we thought.”
Ewald said the provision was in the contract as a recruiting tool to bring in the best candidates for the department. He called it a benefit for Duchnosky to have background experience.
“With all due respect, Mr. Ewald, we were sold a bill of goods,” Ichter replied. “That shouldn’t change. That’s somebody’s word.”
Council member Edwin Soto then said this is why the borough budgets at 100 percent salary for “the unforeseeables.”
Council President James Kovaleski said he wanted the issue to be vetted through the finance committee. Soto then called for the issue to be tabled.