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Chester County Press

Kennett Township reaches CBA with its police department

05/09/2023 11:37AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer

After several months of negotiations, Kennett Township has finalized a five-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Kennett Township Police Department that extends to Dec. 31, 2027. The agreement was formally adopted by the township’s Board of Supervisors at their May 3 meeting.

The path to locking in the new CBA began its negotiations last July in meetings between the township and the Kennett Township Police Association, and was finalized in principle last November. It serves as an upgrade to a five-year contract that was first formalized in 2018 when the department began 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operations and expired at the end of 2022.

In a May 1 policy briefing summary to the board, Finance & Human Resources Director Amy Heinrich wrote that the new agreement was developed in part by comparing the existing CBA with those of other police units in other municipalities throughout Chester County, in order to bring benefits “in line with other municipalities to aid in the financial stability of our police force, while still maintaining positive morale in the department.”

The key amendments to the former CBA will allow officers to make a five percent contribution to their pension plans and their healthcare package, as well as officer a healthcare opt-out incentive; see an adjustment to holiday compensation; reflect reductions in vacation time and in payouts for unused vacation and sick time.

As spelled out by township Manager Eden Ratliff during his comments to the supervisors, the new CBA not only offers a more equitable pension plan for officers, it will include a nine percent salary increase, which equates to a 2.65 percent average raise to help compensate for the five percent pension contribution and the 1.35 percent healthcare contribution that will come out of the officers’ paychecks.

The new CBA also includes a salary tier structure for newly-hired officers that will allow them to reach the top salary level in their designation after seven full years on the job. It also locks each officer into the township’s pension plan on the first day of employment.

The new agreement will not only create a better medical and pension scenario for its police officers, it will also save the township money. Under the current contract structure, police officers are paid $2.56 million annually; in the new contract, the accumulative annual salary will be $2.32 million per year. When calculated, the savings averages out at $244,000 per year and will accumulatively save the township $846,000 over the course of the next five years.

Ratliff said that the new CBA is representative of a more equitable way of doing the business of the township.

“In the past, the lead negotiator was the former township manager [Lisa Moore], who demonstrated a history of over-compensation and benefits that were inconsistent with other Chester County municipalities, but we needed to let the existing CBA expire in order to begin to make progress in making amendments consistent with other benchmarks,” he said. “I thought the Kennett Township Police Association was remarkably understanding about the goals for the township and were as concerned as we were about the future sustainability of the department from a cost perspective.

“I think the Board of Supervisors and the staff are dedicated to the well-being of the officers and their ability to thrive, both from a personal wellness standpoint and a professional standpoint.”

“I believe that this new collective bargaining agreement gives us the stability that we have always worried about, one that led us to continually ask ourselves, ‘What’s going to happen with the police department? Are we moving forward or aren’t we?’” said Police Chief Matt Gordon. “This five-year contract says, ‘Yes, we are.’ By virtue of what we agreed on, this shows that the township is investing in its police department. Their willingness to pay a nine percent salary increase up front to ease us into paying into our pension and medical benefits is clear evidence of their support.”

In related township business, the Board of Supervisors approved Ordinance No. 301 that amends the current pension plan with its police department, as administered by the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].