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Butte-Silver Bow Police Department

Butte-Silver Bow’s top official wants commissioners to approve a contract giving police officers a 2-percent pay raise this fiscal year and much larger increases under a new “matrix” system next year.

The matrix system is designed to bring police wages here in line with what officers in other Montana cities make, but it would cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars more than has been budgeted for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

Dave Palmer, the county’s chief executive, wants commissioners to OK a contract next week that would give police the same 2-percent pay hike that most county employees have already received this year. But in the next fiscal year that starts July 1, the matrix system would kick in.

Palmer said that will give commissioners and his administration time to identify the needed money and budget for the larger matrix increases.

Palmer and the county’s Human Resources Department negotiated the pay plan with the Butte Police Protective Association, and together, they recently asked a council committee to weigh in before a final contract was hammered out. The BPPA represents 46 non-management police officers and 39 dispatchers and detention officers.

Most police officers here would get big pay raises under the “matrix” system. The county’s 39 dispatchers and detention officers are closer to their counterparts in other cities and they would get more pay with just a 2-percent pay hike.

The union wants everyone to get matrix pay or the 2-percent increase, whichever is higher. That would have cost county taxpayers $475,000 more this fiscal year, putting commissioners in a tight spot that could include the need to increase taxes.

The council’s Finance and Budget Committee considered the request but kicked it back to Palmer, saying he should be the one to bring it before full council.

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Some commissioners are concerned about the extra costs tied to the matrix system, and say other county employee unions will demand similar, costly pay structures going forward. That will all cost more money and likely will mean tax increases, they say.

Several police officers have urged commissioners to adopt the matrix, saying they put their lives on the line every day and should at least make the median of what officers in Montana’s other larger cities are paid.

If Palmer follows through on his request, commissioners would consider the police contract when it meets at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5 in the courthouse at 155 W. Granite St.

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Government and politics reporter

Reporter with emphasis on government and politics.

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