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City would negotiate publicly with unions

February 07, 2002

City would negotiate publicly with unions



By DAN KULIN
dank@herald-mail.com


The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday approved a plan to negotiate with the city's employee unions in public.

It would be the first time such negotiations would be held entirely in public, said Mayor William M. Breichner. In the past, union contract talks have been conducted behind closed doors, which state law allows.

The council also endorsed a projected 6.7 percent increase in spending for employee raises and/or to cover any increased cost of benefits.

That 6.7 percent increase would raise the price of employee wages and benefits by about $1.2 million - from almost $18.6 million this year to about $19.8 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1, according to city figures.

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The city would face an estimated $1.2 million deficit in the coming fiscal year, according to city projections that include the wage and benefit increases.

Breichner and Councilman Lewis C. Metzner have said a tax increase probably will be needed to balance the roughly $25 million general fund budget.

The city's general fund pays for city departments such as police, fire and public works. It is the only city fund that receives money from property taxes.

All four city employee unions' contracts will expire in the coming fiscal year.

The council agreed Tuesday to ask the unions to submit their proposals to the council. Then, after cost estimates are determined for the specific union proposals, the council would meet with union representatives in an open session for negotiations.

Breichner said holding the negotiations in public hopefully will "eliminate some of the game of negotiations."

Metzner said the council should find out if the unions are willing to negotiate in public.

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