Signed, Sealed, Delivered – FOP Contract Signed

This week, I was honored to sign, along with Public Safety Committee Chairman, Jeff Minchuk signed the new contract with the Merrillville FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) Lodge 168 providing them with a three-year raise and many new out-of-the-box thinking benefits. I wanted to list below the benefits that our officers will receive in the new contract. I’ve also included some of the other benefits that set our police department apart from some of the others in our county. Being a police officer is a wonderful profession and I am sad that some bad-acting police officers in other parts of our country seem to paint all (police officers) as being bad. They are not. And we are fortunate to have a great group of women and men serving on our force. Merrillville has 61 sworn police officers.

Benefits in the new FOP 2023-2025 Contract Include:

An increase in pay of 9% in total base pay is being given each year in 3% increments. That means that the raise is much more than 9% in total since each year they will receive a 3% increase on the past year’s raise. Remember compounding interest? What this means is that they will enjoy a total of a 9.27% raise at the beginning of the third year.

A $500 increase in the annual clothing/uniform allowance. Officers currently receive $1500 each year so this additional amount will give officers a 25% increase with the new annual total being $2,000.

$25,000 to use toward the replacement or expansion of existing workout equipment in the police department workout room.

An extra day off for fitness. Officers who pass the Indiana Law Enforcement Entry 1 test can receive one extra day off with pay each year. Officers will get 3 attempts through each calendar year to pass the fitness test.

An extra day off for all officers who work the 8-hour shifts vs the patrol officer’s 12-hour shifts. This makes the days off fairer for those who work 8-hour shifts which include police detectives.

Twelve-hour day shift guarantees for the patrol division. A promise that the patrol division officer’s ‘12-hour per day shifts’ will continue as officers really like working this type of shift due to the days off in a row in between each week, or each 4-day work period.

The Town agreed to raise the certified salary for pension determination to $79,500 (which includes longevity pay), which allowed certain retirees to receive a raise in the annual pension amount that they receive. This resulted in over $50,000 in additional Town expenses from the General Fund for PERF (Public Employee Retirement Fund) for the current officer employees. The Town contributes 21.5% to the officers’ PERF each year, which is 3% higher than the State required minimum. As well, one officer will now receive the increased certified salary as his/her payroll, which equates to an approximate additional $14,000 from the General Fund.

The creation of maternity/paternity leave. Maternity leave for female officers will be 16 consecutive weeks. Paternity will be 10 working days. This is guaranteed even if it costs the town more in payroll paying overtime to cover an officer’s absence.

Health insurance for retired police officers. The town will now cover health insurance for retired officers. This is completely new and will offer options to officers waiting to retire until they can receive Medicare or be placed on another job or spouse’s insurance program.

FOP President Ian Davidson-Dugan shakes hands with Town Council President Rick Bella after signing the new FOP contract at the March 28, 2023 Town Council Meeting.

Merrillville Officers also receive a wide-variety of benefits including:

  • Take home cars
  • Specialty or Expert Pay
  • Starting Salary of $60,500
  • Residency Pay after 5 years
  • Longevity Pay after 5 years
  • Holidays up to 15 days per year
  • Vacation time up to 7 weeks
  • Medical/Vision/Dental/Life Insurance
  • K-9 Program
  • SWAT Program
  • School Resource Officer Program
  • Motorcycle Division
  • ATV & Bike Patrol Program
  • Task Force
  • Crime Scene Investigations

Applications for our police department can be obtained at the Merrillville Police Department, 7820 Broadway, Merrillville, IN, or at the link button provided below. For more info call: 219-769-3722.

By far, the Police Department is our town’s highest expense. Equipment costs have risen steadily over the years and this year we are having a difficult time finding police vehicles to purchase. Radios, License Plate Readers, and other ‘tech’ items cost a lot of money. We do our very best with a variety of funding that the town can use to support the operations of our police department. They include:

  • Our General Fund (1101): The majority of the MPD budget is funded through the town’s General Fund. The amount reserved for 2023 is $5,505,259. This is 49% of the total General Fund budget totals $11,243,851, so virtually half of the General Fund is reserved for the police department. This 49% covers much of the payroll, pension contributions, longevity pay, overtime, residency incentive, specialty training benefits, and operational expenses such as gasoline, tires, supplies, the bulk of repairs to equipment, and software, to name some of the larger expenses.
  • PD Continuing Education Fund (2228): This fund is reserved mainly for overtime expenses associated with the continuing education needed for the officers. Some other supplies and smaller operational expenses are paid from this fund as well as needed. The miscellaneous revenues are from accident and case report copy fees, vehicle inspections, and gun permits.  There may be a reduction in upcoming gun permit revenues so this fund will be monitored.
  • LOIT Public Safety Fund (2240): LOIT stands for Local Option Income Tax and is a Public Safety tax generated by the county. Revenue comes from this fund each year. The Town Council uses this fund for the remaining payroll expenses since they are a fixed cost and easy to budget, as opposed to variable items such as equipment.  The revenue is certified by the DLGF (Department of Local Government Finance) each year before budget finalization. This allows the Council to know exactly how much will be available during the upcoming year.  The revenue received in 2022 was $818,132, which frees up that same amount in the General Fund for other uses.
  • Police Donation Fund (2350): Very small miscellaneous fund.  It received $2,390 in revenue in 2022, toward the K-9 program.  The PD spent a very small amount from the fund in 2022.  The current cash balance is $11,438.15.  The Council does not use this fund in the overall police department budget based on the purpose of the fund but lets the PD use the fund for the purposes of the fund.
  • Police Special Grant Fund (2450): This fund is reserved for the overtime associated with the various state and federal grant-funded special patrols and programs.  This fund is not used by Council in the operational expenses of the PD.  The PD uses the fund for its intended purposes.
  • Police Equipment Fund (2555): This is the largest of the PD miscellaneous funds.  The revenues come mainly from the SRO-Dare reimbursement from the schools, tow-related fees, and insurance reimbursements for PD vehicle damages.  The expenditures are to include some vehicle upkeep and repairs, as well as some new vehicles each year.  The cash balance is large at the end of 2022 at $562,423, but the PD was not able to purchase 4 vehicles during the year due to supply chain issues.  The cash balance year-to-year typically had hovered around $400,000 pre-Covid.  Reserving some cash balance in a fund such as this is an important consideration for emergency police department equipment needs.  It is probably a little higher than it needs to be, but it does take some pressure off the General Fund cash balance reserves.
  • Property Seizure Fund (2556):  This fund is reserved for property seizures associated with cases.  It has a current cash balance of $52,455.28.  In 2022 it did not receive any revenue, nor was it used for any expenditures.  It is not to be used for operational expenses of the PD based on its special purpose.

There are no other Town Funds that are reserved for the Police Department, nor does the General Fund hold any excess balances that could be additionally contributed to the PD budget.

One nice thing about local government is that there are NO secrets! All information is available to the public and can be shared, reviewed, inspected, etc. I hope you have enjoyed my blog posts and I promise to continue to keep you informed as to what is happening in our great town. -Rick Bella, Town Council President, and Ward 5 Representative

Town Council President Rick Bella shakes hands with Officer and FOP Secretary Bradley Ervin after the signing of the new FOP Contract on March 28, 2023.

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