TAMPA — After some lean and hungry years, workers at City Hall like the idea of looking forward to a raise again.
So this week two unions for city employees embraced proposed labor contracts that would provide across-the-board pay increases of 2 percent in the coming year, 2.5 percent in 2015 and 3.5 percent in 2016.
On Monday, members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1464 ratified a proposed three-year contract by a vote of 524 to 5.
"I can't believe that five voted no," said ATU president Effrem Green, a longtime solid waste driver. The ATU represents about 1,800 general employees who largely work at clerical, technical and blue-collar jobs.
Tuesday night, the International Association of Firefighters Local 754 said its members approved a similar contract 235 to 37.
The same raises also are in a contract negotiated with the union for police, who will vote next week. Over three years, they add up to 8 percent, which Mayor Bob Buckhorn says city employees have earned.
"They have done a lot more work with a lot less resources and have never complained," he said. "I think this three-year deal is fair for both us and for them."
Employees who are eligible for separate merit raises or step increases could earn more if they are already not at the top of their pay scale and get good performance reviews.
"The door is open for them, depending on how they do their business and how diligent they're going to be," Green said. Together, he said, the across-the-board and merit increases could increase employees' pay by as much as 16½ percent over three years.
"If you think about it cumulatively over a seven- or eight-year period, that's not a lot of money," Buckhorn said. "Bear in mind: a lot of these folks have not had increases in a long time. The steps have been in place and the merit increases have been in place, but anything above that for four years, some cases five years, has been nonexistent."
During the city's 2013-14 fiscal year, which started Tuesday, officials budgeted a little less than $5 million to cover the cost of the 2 percent across-the-board raise for 4,369 authorized city positions — not all of which are filled at any one time.
It's too soon to say how much it would take to pay for the 2.5 percent increase in the second year of the contract or the 3.5 percent increase in the third year, city chief financial officer Sonya Little said.
There are several reasons for that. First, officials don't know how many positions they'll propose for the 2014-15 fiscal year. (Since 2009, cost-cutting has ruled the day, with City Hall eliminating a total of 714 positions from its payroll.)
Also, if the contracts are approved, the raises would be in place for the 3,534 employees covered by unions. But Buckhorn's administration would have to make separate raise decisions for an additional 835 employees not in a union.
Still, as the city comes out of the recession and property taxes start to grow again, Buckhorn does not expect a problem.
"The increases are manageable," he said. "They're not over-ambitious."
The City Council is scheduled to consider the contracts for the firefighters and general employees unions on Thursday.
City negotiators and the Tampa Police Benevolent Association reached a tentative agreement on a similar contract last week. PBA members are scheduled to vote on it Oct. 8 and 9. If approved by officers, officials expect the contract would go to the City Council on Oct. 17.
"I've done some looking around the state of Florida, and I think it's a very good contract personally," said Detective Greg Stout, the president of the PBA, which represents 985 officers.
Before the 2 percent they'll get this coming year, police had not seen an across-the-board raise in five years, he said. Those in the city's step program — which awards annual raises to officers as they work to advance their careers — lost their step increases in 2010 and had them restored the following year. But roughly half the department is not in the step program and has not gotten any raises during that time except for a $2,000 bonus in 2012.
"Our crime reduction has been second to none, I would say, to anywhere in the United States," Stout said. "We've lost three officers, tragically, since 2009. We're one of the hardest-working agencies in law enforcement that I know of. I make no apologies about what the city is offering us, because I think we deserve it, and I think we've earned it."