School police 'doing our part' with salary freeze, union official says


To help the Clark County School District weather a revenue drought, school police on Sunday ratified a contract that includes salary freezes, a concession already granted by administrators and support staff.

"We prepared our (160 officers) for this last year and didn't fight it," said Police Officers Association President Nick Fetcho, noting that officers usually receive an annual 4 percent pay increase but won't this school year or next. "We're doing our part."

The district, one of the state's largest employers, has asked its 37,000 workers to take a pay freeze. With the exception of the teachers union, bargaining groups for district employees have agreed. Teachers, the most vital group in saving the district millions of dollars, account for nearly 18,000 employees, outnumbering administrators, police and support staff combined.

While pay freezes this year will save an estimated $500,000 through school police, $4.5 million through administrators and $14.7 million through support staff, a teacher pay freeze would save $39 million.

But some teachers and leaders of the Clark County Education Association have asserted that they are being asked to do more than their fair share. They would be giving up annual pay increases for seniority as the other groups have done but also would have to sacrifice raises earned for taking professional development courses or completing advanced degrees.

Though the police agreed to a pay freeze for this year and next year in a 63-29 vote, officers probably won't have to pay back the raises they received this year, Fetcho said. Like the Education Support Employees Association, the union representing school police has money saved in a reserve account to give to the district to pay for those raises. There is $466,000 in this account, but it's unclear how far this money will go. Some of it may be used to soften the hit of health insurance costs, which may increase, he said.

Although police have approved a contract that now goes to the School Board for adoption, the issue of whether officers can be suspended without pay remains up in the air.

The union wants the contract changed to follow state law, which states that an agency "shall not suspend a peace officer without pay during an investigation" into their behavior until the investigation has concluded. This means that if an officer were arrested, the individual would still be paid while under investigation , which could take months.

The law states that an officer can be suspended without pay if it's outlined in their union contract, which has long been the case for school police. The district wants to keep it that way, district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

 

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