USF, police reach contract deal

Among other things, it raises officers' salaries and guarantees them bonuses for good performance.

Published January 23, 2008

TAMPA - The wrangling between administrators and police union leaders is over, and University of South Florida officials hope the resulting contract helps them improve campus safety by attracting and retaining more officers.

USF and union leaders announced Tuesday that they have reached a tentative agreement to be ratified in coming weeks by campus police and USF trustees. Among other things, the contract raises officers' salaries and guarantees them bonuses for good performance.

Administrators also will immediately boost the starting pay for newly hired officers from $35,041 to $38,000 a year, said USF spokesman Ken Gullette.

The agreement follows months of tense talks between the two sides and comes just a few weeks after university administrators declared an impasse. Police Benevolent Association officials will present the contract to members for ratification this week. The contract then goes to USF trustees for final approval.

Administrators were under intense pressure in recent months as police officers publicly complained that they are undermanned, underpaid and overworked as they try to handle the security needs of the sprawling Tampa campus of 38,500 students.

USF's officer-student ratio, roughly one officer for every 916 students, is the highest among the state's large public universities. Officers and some student leaders say that is unacceptable in an era of terrorist threats and mass shootings such as the rampage at Virginia Tech.

The aim of the new contract is to pay USF officers more so that they don't leave for neighboring agencies that have in recent years paid their officers at least a few thousand dollars more.

"We believe this new contract will make the university more competitive with other police agencies in the area," said USF president Judy Genshaft.

The three-year contract boosts officers' base salaries based on time served and guarantees them retention raises in the second year of between 1.5 and 3 percent, depending on how long they have worked for the department.

An officer who has been with the department for two to five years, for example, will make $40,000 this year and get a 2 percent raise next year. The agreement also allows the two sides to come back to the table in year three to talk about higher salaries and other improvements.

The contract gives all officers a lump bonus of $2,500 this year. It also would give officers bonuses of between $500 and $1,000 this year and next, based on their performance evaluations.

"I think it's a fair package," said Greg Stout, president of the Tampa chapter of the Police Benevolent Association. "Our No. 1 issue is campus safety, and we think this goes a long way to recruiting and retaining quality officers to USF."

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