City discontinues traffic detail

TAYLOR — The city’s Police Department has discontinued its Traffic Detail Program.


The detail, which ended Jan. 14, was a voluntary program for police officers to work during off-duty hours. Officials say the department’s regular three patrol shifts will not be impacted.


They also say they have serious concerns over the long-term impact that the overtime pay associated with the detail will have on the viability of the city’s pension system. 


Because hours worked under the detail are outside regular duty hours, all detail hours are paid at the officer’s overtime rate. According to their union contract, when an officer works overtime, that pay is factored into the amount of pension pay the officer will receive at retirement.


Officials say pension costs are escalating at an astonishing rate. In 2002, the city’s contribution toward funding pensions was $579,000. In 2008, that contribution increased to more than $4,977,000 — an increase of 759 percent.


Further, police and fire retiree health care costs have increased from $1,772,000 in 2002 to $2,032,700 in 2008 — a 70 percent increase. For 2009, 25 percent — or one in every four dollars of city taxes collected for the general fund — goes exclusively to fund police and firefighter retiree costs.


The city administration is aware that eliminating the Traffic Detail will have an impact on cash flow, because the detail generated revenue through court fines. The administration already has taken steps to address those concerns by eliminating certain costs not only in the Police Department, but in other departments as well. Any decrease in police and fire pension benefits will result in a direct tax savings to taxpayer, officials say.


No decision has been made on whether the Traffic Detail will be reinstated at some future date.