UPDATE: North Hampton selectmen have unanimously lauded two union tentative agreements that they feel not only take care of town employees but also represent a progressive approach to saving taxpayers' money.
Selectmen unanimously accepted Monday a three-year deal for North Hampton Professional Firefighters Local 3211 and a four-year deal for New England Police Benevolent Association Local 211, which also covers the town's highway employees.
Both the fire and police contracts move employees off a pricy, three-tiered Blue Cross plan that attorney Joe McKittrick called the "Cadillac" of the market.
The shift to a Blue Cross Lumenos plan, which McKittrick said increases employee premiums and saves the town substantially "without diminishing coverage" in any way, will over time save more than enough money to fund the raises outlined in each of the deals and create a "surplus" — an idea selectmen heavily favored.
"The three-tiered plan is unrealistic and archaic," said Selectman Phil Wilson. "I think that’s a very, very important step for us to have taken.
"I believe they are fair contracts to both sides, and I would be very much in favor of [them]."
The unions have already ratified both deals, according to Town Administrator Steve Fournier. Warrant articles calling for the passage of the deals will now go before the North Hampton Budget Committee for a vote of recommendation during a 7 p.m. meeting at Town Hall, after which it will be up to the voters at town meeting.
Selectmen praised the contracts, both of which feature a 3-percent salary raise in each of the years and an annual bonus that doesn't get added into the employees' base salaries, according to McKittrick. Selectmen said the increases will help the town retain its officers and firefighters and be competitive in the market.
The police contract will be proposed through a warrant article at town meeting that calls for an appropriation of $100,425 to cover the total cost of the four years of the deal. The first year — fiscal year 2013 — will cost $22,200, while the subsequent years are as follows: FY2014 - $30,300; FY2015 - $20,475; and FY2016 - $27,450.
Fournier said the town is required to appropriate, "as if it doesn't pass," the money through a warrant article to cover the contract. He said thanks to the reduction in insurance costs, though, there will be a net savings of about $7,228 in the first year, during which the guaranteed maximum rate of the Lumenos plan is $29,396 lower than the three-tiered plan.
The potential savings for years two through four have the ability to save even more, further offsetting the raises and bonuses; Fournier said the "worst-case scenario" Lumenous plan maximum rate will be $38,086 less than the three-tiered plan in FY2014, $47,645 less in FY2015, and $58,159 less in FY2016.
The three-year firefighter contract will be proposed through a $61,184 warrant article. FY2013 will cost $32,325, FY2014 will cost $24,000, and FY2015 will cost $28,835.
Fournier said the Lumenos plan savings in each of these years are similar to the police contracts, as its maximum rate is $34,719 less in year one, $43,941 less in year two, and $54,086 less in year three.
Selectmen Chairman Jim Maggiore said there was a directive from the board to ensure during negotiations that the contracts had "clear" savings, which he said are reflected the selectmen-approved deals.
Maggiore said it's now up to the public to look into the contracts and decide whether they want to pass them, which he said he hopes will happen once residents see the benefits of the contracts.
"It's necessary for people to ask, 'Is this best deal we can come up with for the town of North Hampton?'" said Maggiore. "I feel this team came up with a contract that's fair to them and fair to the residents of North Hampton. I commend both sides for that."
ORIGINAL STORY (5:46 a.m.):
North Hampton selectmen unanimously passed tentative agreements with the town's police and fire unions during a special meeting Monday night.
The contracts — a three-year deal for North Hampton Professional Firefighters Local 3211 and a four-year deal for New England Police Benevolent Association Local 211, which also covers the town's highway employees — will now go before the North Hampton Budget Committee during a meeting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
Selectmen praised the efforts of the unions and both sides' negotiating teams to draft contracts with both significant savings in healthcare costs to help offset salary increases that will help the town retain its police officers and firefighters and be competitive in the market.
"I believe they are fair contracts to both sides, and I would be very much in favor of [them]," said Selectman Phil Wilson.
The unions have already ratified both deals, according to Town Administrator Steve Fournier. More information about the contracts, including specific dollar figures, will be posted in a story later today.