WILKES-BARRE – The city doesn't call them bonuses, but longtime city police officers and firefighters see their salaries boosted as much as 15 percent by longevity pay based on years of service.
Mayor Tom Leighton has asked members of the Police Benevolent Association and the International Association of Firefighters Local 104 to give up a scheduled pay hike in 2013, using the savings to reduce a proposed 31 percent property tax hike. But Leighton's plan does not seek a reduction in longevity pay as part of his plan to close a $2 million spending gap.
Longevity pay begins at one percent and is paid on the second anniversary of employment. It increases one percent every two years and is capped at 15 percent.
For instance, the base salary in 2012 for a police sergeant is $59,514. If the sergeant is employed for 10 years, the longevity pay rate of five percent raises the salary to $62,490.
A Times Leader review last week showed nine of the 10 top-paid city employees in 2011 were members of the police and fire departments.
Police Chief Gerard Dessoye and Assistant Chief Donald Crane have been on the police force for 31 years and 37 years, respectively, and have reached their longevity maximum.
Dessoye earns a base salary of $93,352 and $14,003 in longevity pay that spiked his 2011 income to $107,355. Crane's base salary in 2011 was $79,105 but with $11,866 in longevity pay he had total income last year of $90,971.
Bonuses are not paid to any city employees, said city spokesman Drew McLaughlin. Police officers and firefighters receive longevity and holiday pay, which is part of their collective bargaining agreements with the city and the unions.
Leighton requested employees forgo a three percent pay hike and give up three paid non-federal holidays to help lower a projected 30-mill tax hike. At that rate, the average property-owning household would pay $183 more each year.
Still under consideration by employees is the mayor's request for voluntary furloughs to help with an estimated $2 million revenue shortfall this year.
Leighton also said the city will offer an incentive to 51 people eligible for retirement. They and their families will receive health insurance for the next three years in exchange for retirement by Nov. 15.
Edward Lewis, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7196.