Havre Daily News
City employees may not get the pay raises they've requested from the city of Havre.
"There's no pay increases budgeted for this year," Havre City Council member Terry Schend, who chairs the council's Labor Negotiations Committee, said Wednesday during a negotiation session with firefighters.
Schend said all three city unions - those representing employees of the police, fire and public work departments - asked for a 5 percent increase in pay, but due to budget constraints, the city is unable to meet those requests. City officials are still working to finalize budget numbers, but Schend said there's not much money to work with when it comes to pay raises.
The committee met with Local 601 of the International Association of Firefighters Wednesday to negotiate a new one-year contract. The two groups last met in mid-July.
The city turned down a request by the union to increase the number of hours of overtime pay firefighters receive if they get called in to work while off-duty. Off-duty firefighters now receive two hours of overtime - paid at time and a half - if called back to work, said Dave Krezelak, an engineer in the department who chairs the four-person negotiations committee of the firefighters union. The union's proposal would have increased that to three hours, but the city denied its request.
"We make the city money with the ambulance but we never see any of those benefits," Krezelak said. "We bring in money, but it seems that's never taken into consideration."
The ambulance service, run by the Fire Department, costs patients $250 to $350 per trip in town, and $4 per mile out of town. Krezelak said the service brings in an estimated $200,000 per year.
"That money goes to the city," he said. "We don't see it."
Krezelak said he'd like the city to consider those issues when negotiating overtime and pay increases for the union.
The city also presented new plans for health insurance coverage at Wednesday's meeting. The city is now paying for half of last year's 45 percent insurance premium increase for firefighters, which means it picks up about two-thirds of a family's total premium and about 87 percent of an individual's health coverage.
The new insurance offer would allow the employee to choose one of two plans. The first - Plan A - is the current coverage that city employees receive, but the employee would have to pick up the entire 20 percent increase in health insurance premiums this year. Plan B would implement higher deductibles with a minimal premium increase the city said it would absorb. Under the city's current insurance plan, emergency room visits have no deductible. Under Plan B, they would require a $100 copayment.
"What we're hoping is with increased deductibles, people will consider seeing a doctor, rather than going to the emergency room," Schend said.
The next meeting between the Labor Negotiations Committee and the firefighters union is scheduled for Sept. 16. The committee will meet with the union representing police officers on Sept. 8 and public works employees on Sept. 15. All three meetings will be held at City Hall at