Friday, April 23, 1999
Two Viewpoints: Opinion on the Quinn Bill
Article 34 of the Warrant asks that the town accept the provisions of Chapter 41, Section 108L of the Massachusetts General Laws, the so-called "Quinn Bill." A group of citizens placed the article on the Warrant at the request of the Carlisle Police Union. The Quinn Bill provides for the implementation of an education-based compensation program for police department personnel. The board of selectmen and the personnel committee are currently under contract negotiations (including all components of compensation) with the Carlisle Police Union. The selectmen believe that the proper place for contract negotiations belongs at the bargaining table and not on the floor of Town Meeting. We believe that without an agreed upon contract in place, the costs and long-term financial impact of Article 34 are not in Carlisle's best interest and, therefore, recommend that Town Meeting not approve Article 34.
If accepted, the Quinn Bill will provide police department employees (union and non-union) with additional educational incentive pay. The bill calls for employees to receive additional compensation based upon their educational background. For example, an employee with an associate, bachelor's or master's degree would receive additional payments equal to 10, 20 and 25 percent of their base pay, respectively. The town would submit to the state for reimbursement an amount equal to one-half of the amount paid to the employees. The reimbursement from the state is not guaranteed and will remain subject to the annual appropriation of the legislature. If the state does not appropriate adequate funds to pay their share of the Quinn Bill, the town becomes responsible for the entire amount paid to the employees. In addition, there will be a one-year lag in receipt of reimbursement by the state for their share of the Quinn Bill. This potential lack of state funding and the lag in payment will have a significant effect on the town's operations and financial condition.
Under the current contract between the town and the Carlisle Police Union, association members receive educational incentive pay equal to roughly half of the benefit called for in the Quinn Bill. In the event that Article 34 passes at Town Meeting, and we have not come to an agreement with the Union, the association members could receive both the education benefits provided for under the current contract as well as the full benefit of the Quinn Bill. In other words, an employee with a bachelor's degree could receive additional payments equal to 30 percent of their base pay. This situation will seriously impact the budget and therefore the operations of the police department.
The board of selectmen respect and appreciate the work of the Carlisle Police Department. We are of the opinion that a well-educated police department best serves Carlisle's citizens. We support educational incentive programs. We cannot support the proposed article until we have a contract with the police union in place that ensures a financially sound police department budget. In the absence of an agreed upon contract, we ask that Town Meeting attendees vote against Article 34.
On the other hand. . .
I am writing to address Warrant Article 34 scheduled for the May 4 Town Meeting. The article is asking the town of Carlisle to adopt the provisions in Massachusetts General Law Chapter 41, Section 108L, the Police Career Incentive Pay Program (a.k.a. the Quinn Bill). The Quinn Bill was enacted in 1970 to help cities and towns raise the level of education of their police officers. The Quinn Bill was designed to position the Commonwealth's police forces for the future by providing officers with financial incentives for continuing education. The Quinn Bill is achieving its desired effect; the educational level of police officers throughout the commonwealth has improved dramatically since the bill was passed. Approximately 68 percent of the cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts and 198 statewide have adopted the Quinn Bill. Even those cities and towns that have not adopted it have been influenced by the Quinn Bill.
Carlisle, as many of the towns that have not adopted the Quinn Bill (but whose taxpayers pay for it through state taxes), offers an alternative form of educational incentive called the Education Incentive Program (EIP). On the whole, our police officers are already well educated; 86 percent have a college degree at the associate's level or higher. Nevertheless, the Quinn Bill continues to offer substantial benefits to both the town and its police officers.
The Carlisle Police Union has continually expressed the desire to have the town adopt the Quinn Bill. It has also been one of the central issues of our ongoing negotiations. The reason the Quinn Bill is so important to our police officers is straightforward. Carlisle's total salary and benefits package are less than that offered by many of the surrounding cities and towns. The main reason for this is the value of our EIP stipend is much less than the value of the Quinn Bill benefits. Our current EIP is 50 percent less than the Quinn Bill benefits. A recent survey of 27 communities in and around the Carlisle area shows that we ranked 256 in total compensation for a police officer who is at a maximum top step with a bachelor's degree.
The question of a shortfall in state funding of the Quinn Bill has been raised. Will the town of Carlisle have to pay the difference out of its own funds? This is a legitimate concern, as the state has an inconsistent track record in meeting its obligations for local aid, and the town could ill afford to take such a risk. The Carlisle Police Union understands this concern and has addressed this issue. The union has agreed to release the town of Carlisle from any obligation to pay for more than its portion of the Quinn Bill benefits. The union members have also agreed to a $21,000 decrease in wages and benefits in the first year of the Quinn Bill to offset the initial costs of the program.
The town of Carlisle and the police union both have an interest in improving the salary and benefits package offered to police officers. Carlisle's ability to attract, and retain the most capable police officers depends on how well its total compensation package compares to surroundings cities and towns. The Quinn Bill is an attractive method for raising the value of our police compensation package because the state pays for half of the cost.
I was home alone, relaxing on the couch after finally completing my tax returns. Through the window, I watched the glorious white pines as they swayed in the spring breeze. How lucky we are to have such majesty in Carlisle! I was on the verge of napping when the phone rang. My friend and neighbor, Chris, was on the other end of the line asking, "Do you have a come-along?" After responding in the affirmative, I learned that a 100-foot pine tree was threatening to descend on a swimming pool. "Could you come over to Howard's house with your come-along?" he asked. Always up for an adventure, I agreed immediately, gathered my dog Fikal and the necessary tools, and raced across town.
Arriving on the scene, I spotted Howard, Chris and two other gentlemen working on moving a large boulder at the top of the driveway. After introductions I learned that one was Howard's next-door neighbor, Clarence, and the other his friend, Patrick. Howard rather sheepishly explained that within hours of his wife's departure with their children for a week's vacation he had managed to put his swimming pool under Damocles' sword. He led the way to the woods behind the swimming pool where a no longer majestic but very dead pine tree loomed over the pool. Upon closer inspection I realized that the base was almost completely sawed through.
I had been in a similar situation several years ago. I tried to fell a large pine tree in my yard, but the back-cut pinched my chain saw as the tree leaned backwards in the wrong direction. I ran to the hardware store and purchased a 150-foot cable, which I also brought with me on this occasion. The other trick I learned was to use a small bag of sand to help throw a light nylon line over a branch far up on the trunk.
Clarence informed us that Patrick was a former cricket player, so we elected him to throw the sand bag. We used the nylon line to pull the cable over the branch. Howard produced a carabiner, which allowed us to create a giant slip knot that captured the trunk up higher than any ladder would have gotten us. Then, at a safe distance of 150 feet, we attached the cable to a tree stump using the come-along. With a modest amount of effort, Chris winched the tree away from Howard's pool, causing it to topple out of harm's way. Howard let out a great cry of "Timber!" I didn't realize how much this had been weighing on him until I saw his customary ear-to-ear grin return and he gave me a big bear hug. Clarence was relieved too, because it turned out to be his tree, and so we all hugged each other. I realized that at times, Carlisle's glorious white pines can be very troublesome
© 1999 The Carlisle Mosquito