WILDWOOD CREST — The borough and its police union have signed a new three-year contract that results in significant long-term savings, borough Clerk and Administrator Kevin Yecco said Thursday.

The contract, which runs from Jan. 1, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2015, applies to 16 police officers, but does not include the police chief, captain or lieutenant. The department currently has two vacancies.

Yecco said the contract was settled with only four negotiating sessions, a development Yecco called “unprecedented,” and before the old contract expired.

“It’s the long-term savings that will be considerable,” Yecco said.

Under the new contract, the wage guide which is used to determine salary increases has been altered from eight steps to 19 steps, meaning it will take a much longer time for officers to reach the highest rate of pay for their respective ranks.

The total wage increase over the life of the contract is 2.03 percent or $85,959, making annual police compensation costs $1.5 million.

Longevity and college credit pay have also been eliminated from the contract, although some lower level employees will see their salaries increase with additional payments to make up for the loss of those benefits.

But that means their contributions to health care insurance will also be higher.

Employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011, will also pay 3 percent toward their health insurance.

The contract reduces the sick leave payouts employees can receive from $19,750 to $15,000.

Starting salaries are $30,150, compared with $41,200 in 2009.

Changes were also made to health insurance benefits and a yearly cap on vacation hours has been cut from 240 hours to 200 hours after 20 years of service.

PBA Local 59 representative Cpl. Ron Becker, a 17-year veteran with the Police Department, said the union and its members recognize the need to work with the municipality in what are changing economic times.

“It was a cooperation of the entire membership who I think saw the need for the savings to the borough,” Becker said.

He said the state 2 percent cap on municipal spending increases required compromise for the good of the town.

In the past, Becker said, “Our expectations were always at a higher level.”

Yecco said the smooth and quick negotiations were a recognition that the borough could not continue to sustain the costs of past years.

“These skyrocketing costs can’t continue to be absorbed by taxpayers,” he said, noting that this was the first negotiating session in which arbitration was not sought or necessary. “The tide had to turn.”

Contact Trudi Gilfillian: