ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca’s long-running Cold War is over.
The Ithaca Police Benevolent Association and the City of Ithaca have agreed to a new labor contract, the first time a new contract has been ratified between the two since 2011. The pause in tension between the two sides could be short-lived, as the new contract goes only until 2023, but settles a longstanding stand-off between police union leadership and Mayor Svante Myrick’s administration. The agreement was passed unanimously by Common Council.
The actual text of the new labor contract is expected to be released by the city either today or early tomorrow, at which point some of the finer details will be clarified. However, a brief discussion of the matter took place at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting (you can view the discussion here), highlighting some of the new features introduced in the contract.
The labor contract runs from Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2023, covering most of the time since the IPD and city last ratified a contract. Base salary pay raises was one of the main sticking points in contract discussions for the last 10 years, but the union certainly seemed to come out on the winning end there—especially compared to where salaries were pegged in the 2008-2011 agreement, which was a starting salary of $44,891 and ascending to 70,222 by “Step 4” of employment. Now, salaries will start at $55,652, growing to $87,000 by Step 4.
Sergeants will earn $94,000 to start (compared to $75,842 in 2011), with a maximum of $102,000 per year (formerly $82,702), and lieutenants will go to $109,000 (up from $88,532). This is base pay, and thus does not count for overtime wages earned, which is normally a fairly sizable figure.
In 2023, all of those numbers will jump 3.5 percent, the mayor said. However, the city will be saving at least some money annually as police officers will now pay a higher contribution (20 percent) of their health insurance costs, joining other city employees on a platinum plan—a figure that will also be reflected as police officers receive back-pay for the time spent without a new contract.
“It’s [a contract] that will make us extremely competitive place to work in law enforcement and public safety,” said Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick. “Which should help our effects at recruitment and retention, and attract the people to careers in public safety that we want. We want a population that is eager to live and work in the city of Ithaca, and I think this contract will help us do that.”
Myrick did mention that the contract comes with a “pretty hefty price tag that will be felt by taxpayers,” but intimated that he felt the resulting quality of public safety will serve as a fair return. It’s unclear the impact this will have on both the law enforcement reform effort and the department’s ongoing asks for more officers in uniform—which was also a topic of conversation on Wednesday.
It was a marked change from previous rhetoric between Myrick and the police union, who have waged war both behind closed doors and via the press and social media off-and-on for the last several years, particularly as Myrick’s Reimagining Public Safety plans took shape in Spring 2021. Tensions reached new heights earlier this year as the union’s social media activity became more frequent, plus a spate of crime that took place in October and early November. The allegations of union-busting that gained some traction in spring, fueled by critics of Myrick’s plan to replace the Ithaca Police Department with a Community Solutions and Public Safety Department of armed and unarmed officers, appear to have been misguided considering the new contract.
IPBA president Thomas Condzella stated that the union is “excited and thrilled to sign this contract settlement agreement with the City of Ithaca.” He said members of the union are happy with the outcome and the renewed ability to continue working in Ithaca.
“We applaud the Ithaca Common Council for ratifying this contract and understanding the need to create stability within the Ithaca Police Department,” Condzella wrote in a statement to the Ithaca Voice. “Recruitment is hard, retention is instrumental, and this is one step forward to recruiting and retaining the best police officers to serve and protect our amazing community and to advocate for the rights of victims of crimes.”