USF renews contract with guards for $1M

Meanwhile, the university and its police force union remain at odds over bonuses and raises.

Published January 15, 2008

TAMPA - The University of South Florida remains deadlocked in its contract talks with the union representing campus police, but administrators this year will pay $1-million to keep unarmed security guards on the Tampa campus.

According to a contract signed this month, the $1-million tab includes $60,900 for an account manager and $164,673 a year for around-the-clock shift supervisors who will log a total of 168 hours each week. Dispatchers also will work around the clock for 168 hours each week, at a cost of $145,629.

Security officers patrolling residence halls and other high-traffic areas will put in 840 hours a week, for $663,0000, according to the contract signed by USF chief financial officer Carl Carlucci and AlliedBarton Security Services executive Richard P. Mullan.

USF hired the guards in the fall, amid concerns about the police department's thin ranks and its ability to effectively secure the sprawling Tampa campus and its 38,500 students.

USF paid AlliedBarton $200,000 through the end of the year.

But the one-year contract signed this month marks a permanent commitment to the controversial campus security strategy.

Some officers say the guards are helpful, an extra set of eyes and ears who can handle more mundane tasks like letting employes into locked offices or checking on burglar alarms.

Others question the wisdom of spending so much money on unarmed guards who have no arrest power, when that money could go toward beefing up the police department.

The police department's annual budget is $3.8-million, so the AlliedBarton contract is nearly a quarter of that. But USF spokesman Ken Gullette pointed out that the police department's budget has not been affected by recent budget cuts.

Starting pay for USF officers is $35,041. So including benefits, $1-million a year could feasibly pay for a dozen additional police officers.

The 12-month AlliedBarton contract, renewable for up to four years, also has a built-in provision that allows AlliedBarton to charge 3 percent more each year.

USF police officers do not have any such guarantee for annual raises.

USF has 42 armed officers, one for every 916 students at the Tampa campus. Because of high turnover, the majority have less than five years' experience. The University of Florida, by comparison, has one officer for every 564 students, a ratio USF hasn't had in several years.

Police officers and union officials say the department's starting salary is too low to compete with neighboring agencies that pay new officers about $4,000 more.

Moreover, USF's police department doesn't offer perks like a take-home car or annual pay increases based on time served.

USF officials insist they are dedicated to keeping campus safe, and that their contract offer to the union is fair.

USF proposes increasing starting pay to $38,500 within the first two years. Officers with two to five years in the department would make $40,000 and get a $2,500 bonus.

But the union wants a $3,000 bonus, as well as a steeper "step" pay increase plan than what USF officials propose.

USF last month declared an impasse in contract talks, so the matter now goes to a special magistrate.

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at svansickler@sptimes.com or 813 226-3403.