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Corona Approves Police, Fire Contracts : Patrol Officers, Detectives to Get 18.25% Pay Hike by Early 1986

Times Staff Writer

The City Council approved a two-year police contract Wednesday night, granting patrol officers and detectives an 18.25% pay increase by early next year.

The council also approved a two-year contract granting Fire Department supervisory personnel a 2.5% pay hike in addition to 15% they received earlier this year. An additional increase will be calculated next August.

The new police contract will raise top salaries for patrol officers by about $4,200 annually and boost the department’s starting salary to $22,908 a year, from $19,380, said Detective Les Scott, president of the Corona Police Officers’ Assn.

Corona Police salaries--at all levels in the chain of command--currently rank lowest among 10 “comparable cities” in the Inland Empire, Scott said. Under the new pact, the patrolmen’s and detectives’ total compensation package will rank second only to those in the city of Riverside.

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10% Increase Oct. 12

The officers and detectives will see a 10% increase in their paychecks Oct. 12, with the rest of the raise coming on Jan. 18.

They will receive another raise next October, to keep their total salary and benefits halfway between those of the first- and third-ranked cities in the comparison group.

(The nine cities used for comparison are Riverside, Upland, Chino, Ontario, Redlands, Fontana, Colton, Rialto and San Bernardino.)

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Negotiators representing the police employees said that this year’s contract talks were dramatically different from those two years ago, which reached an impasse that led to a five-day walkout by patrol officers, detectives, sergeants and lieutenants.

The November, 1983, walkout marked the beginning of a year and a half of acrimony within the Police Department that culminated in the indictment--and eventual acquittal --of Chief Bob J. Talbert and Deputy Chief Ed Sampson on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

‘I Am Delighted’

The city has since granted Talbert a disability retirement, but has not acted on Sampson’s disability claim because it has not received necessary medical reports, city officials said.

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“I am delighted at the way this year turned out,” Scott said. “We didn’t get everything we wanted . . . but just the spirit of cooperation is refreshing.”

The harmony of this year’s talks was due less to spirit than to substance, suggested City Manager James Wheaton.

“The approach to negotiations was no different than in previous years,” he said, “save one feature: This year, we have more money.”

Corona’s 1985-86 budget projects substantial increases in revenue from sales and property taxes, service fee and state motor vehicle fees, Wheaton said.

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Those funds have allowed the City Council to increase the city’s general-fund payroll by 36 employees and to boost all its employees’ salaries to levels competitive with--or higher than--other cities in the area, he said.

Stuck With the Issues

Raising employee salaries relative to its neighbors’ represents “a major shift in (City) Council policy,” Wheaton said.

“We didn’t throw a lot of stuff on the table,” Scott said. “We went in with what we thought was the real problem, and just stuck with that issue.”

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The increased police salaries will reduce problems that Corona has experienced in attracting and retaining police officers, Scott predicted.

Also on Wednesday, negotiations opened between the city and representatives of its police sergeants and lieutenants.

Under their contract with the city, the police supervisors automatically will receive pay increases at least as large as those of their fellow officers, said Bill Garrett, deputy city manager.

Some police supervisors have noted, however, that their salaries lag farther behind those of their counterparts in other cities than have the salaries of Corona’s patrol officers and detectives.

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Supervisory Personnel

Representatives of supervisory personnel outside the Fire and Police departments also began negotiating a new contract with the city this week, Wheaton said.

Other employee contracts approved by the City Council since July grant firefighters a 15% pay increase this year, and other non-supervisory personnel staggered increases of 10% and 2.5% this year.

The Corona-Norco Unified School District and its teachers also approved a new contract this week.

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That one-year pact grants teachers a 4% pay hike, plus a 2.4% average increase in the number of hours for which they are paid, said Supt. Don Helms.

Each teacher will also receive increased benefits worth $100 annually, Helms said.


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