Council OK’s 9%, 2-year increase for employees

Workers in three union labor groups in the city of Forest Lake are working under new agreements with the arrival of the new year.  The Forest Lake City Council voted 3-1 to approve the new wage and benefit packages for 2008 and 2009 during a special meeting on Dec. 21. Prior to the public meeting, the council met in closed session to discuss those agreements.


Jennifer Larson
Times Staff Writer

Workers in three union labor groups in the city of Forest Lake are working under new agreements with the arrival of the new year.  The Forest Lake City Council voted 3-1 to approve the new wage and benefit packages for 2008 and 2009 during a special meeting on Dec. 21. Prior to the public meeting, the council met in closed session to discuss those agreements.

Councilwoman Susan Young voted against all three contracts, saying she had significant issues with parts of the contracts. The council has yet to take action on Local 49, which is the labor group that includes street, parks and public works employees.

Contracts have been reached for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee group, police officers who are part of Local 111 of the Law Enforcement Labor Services union and the sergeant’s union, Local 326, as well as non-represented employees.

City Administrator Chip Robinson said contract ratification includes a standard 3 percent cost of living adjustment salary schedule improvement in each year of the contract as well as increased city contributions for health, medical and dental insurance.

He said when the benefit package is added to the COLA, the contract is approximately 4.5 percent in both 2008 and 2009. Robinson said the settlements have been factored into the 2008 budget, which the council adopted in December.

The total wage and benefit package increase from the 2007 contract to 2008 is $419,374, he said. That figure includes all step increases and adding the building inspector position back in as it was eliminated in 2007 because of a proposed retirement that did not happen.

Benefits package

The city has agreed to pay an additional $50 a month for health and medical insurance with a maximum monthly payment of $910 in 2008. The following year of the contract, the city has agreed to pay an additional $75 a month for health and medical insurance.

A city employee with family coverage would be responsible for the balance of the monthly $1450 premium cost. Three other plans with lower monthly premiums are available to city employees covered under the agreements.

For dental insurance, the city will pay an additional $10 a month for 2008 and 2009 for its share of the premium.

The city also agreed to increase the term life insurance from $30,000 under the current contract to $50,000 in 2008.

Police officers will receive a $25 increase for uniform allowance in 2008 totaling $750 and a $50 increase in 2009 totaling $800.

City employees covered under the agreements can bank a maximum of 200 hours of vacation hours. Robinson said employees are encouraged to keep an eye on their vacation bank, using it down. Past contracts have allowed employees to carry over unused vacation time from one year to the next.

Under the severance plan,  employees can cash out 50 percent of their unused sick leave hours accumulating to a maximum of 260 hours after 10 years of service, 440 hours after 15 years of service and 720 hours after 20 years of service.

Exempt employees

There are seven exempt or non-union employees, which includes Robinson. The administrator’s salary will go from around $112,000 to  $121,000.

According to Robinson, the exempt employees will also receive the same wage and benefits packages as unionized workers in addition to step increases.

Those departments heads who are non-union employees include Finance Director Ellen Paulseth, Director of Public Works Mike Tate, Director of Public Safety Clark Quiring, Building Official Keith Wille, Development Director Doug Borglund and Fire Chief Gary Sigfrinius.

The salaries set by council for 2008 are as follows in round numbers.

Paulseth’s salary will go from  $92,000 in 2007 to $100,000 in 2008, Tate’s salary will go from $83,000 to $90,000 this year and Quiring’s salary will increase from $96,000 to $105,000 in 2008.

Approximate salaries for other exempt employes last year and in 2008 are Wille, who will go from $82,000 to $90,000, Borglund will go from $82,000 to $90,000 and Sigfrinius will go from $87,000 to $95,000.

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