BRIDGEPORT — By a 4-1 margin, the local police union has rejected the city's final contract proposal, forcing the deadlocked talks on a new pact into binding arbitration.

"The membership has spoken. Obviously, they weren't happy with what the city was offering," Sgt. Donald Jacques, the union president, said Monday. "The city said it was its best offer, but the membership decided it wasn't good enough."

Officers rejected the proposed contract by a 180-45 vote in Friday balloting. Police officers have been working without a contract for a year and a half.

Mayor John M. Fabrizi said he was disappointed with the vote, but said the city is prepared to press its case in the state's binding arbitration process.

"The tentative agreement was reached after many hours of negotiation over the past several months. I felt it was very fair and equitable," the mayor said.

There are 419 uniformed police officers with starting pay at $37,964 in the police union.

While the proposed agreement called for salary increases of 2.5 percent, 2.5 percent, 3 percent and 3 percent over the course of the four-year pact, it also would have required larger payments by union members for health insurance, something they were not prepared to accept, according to union officials.

"Because of the spiraling cost of health benefits, it just can't remain status quo," the mayor said of the city's demand that the officers contribute more.

Under the family plan rate, a police officer currently pays 7.5 percent of the health-care premium with the city paying the remainder. However, under the proposal, the percentage the employee would pay would have risen to 10 percent this year, 11 percent next year and 12 percent in 2007.

Co-payments would increase from $5 to $20 for a doctor visit and prescription co-payments would be $5, $10 and $25, depending on the medication.

"I felt the proposal was extremely fair and equitable and in line with the private sector," the mayor said.

Jacques, who has led the union for the past year, also said Monday he will not run for re-election.

Meanwhile, the city's firefighters are also without a contract. Fabrizi said city negotiators had been delaying work on a new fire pact until the police contract was complete.