STATE AND LOCAL WATCH
SUFFOLK’S PBA DEAL GIVES US $200,000 OFFICERS
The agreement between Suffolk and the PBA is far gloomier for taxpayers than projected in the press thus far. It is stale cake wrapped in a pretty box and a nice bow, and unfortunately, too many have bought the spin without seeing the details.
Many get obsessed over process and fawn over politicians and union leaders patting each other on the back after striking a deal. “Oh, isn’t it wonderful to see how they are all working together.” It could just as easily be deemed, “Isn’t it awful how they are going in the tank again for the union.”
There is a reason there haven’t been negotiated contracts with the PBA for twenty years. It’s because the union simply won’t agree to forgo arbitration unless they get a favorable deal. Some important points worth noting are as follows:
Newsday’s separately boxed synopsis highlights a two year freeze, BUT IT DOESN’T MENTION THAT FOR NUMEROUS YEARS THEREAFTER THERE WILL BE ANNUAL RAISES OF ALMOST FOUR PERCENT. There will be TWO 1.75% increases in these years, which is almost four percent since it’s compounded. The union itself is bragging to its members that they will have officers earning $200,000 a year base pay after just three hours overtime a week. A follow up story incorrectly said that the outer years would increase wages a mere 1.5% annually, rather than the nearly four percent, plus steps. Huge chunks of salary are being awarded yet hidden from the percentage total by simply calling it extra compensatory equivalent pay or by giving bonuses.
2). While municipalities all over the nation are looking to obtain givebacks, Suffolk has now locked itself out of any givebacks for TEN years. There is now no other place to go. This will be really regretted just a few years from now.
3) The 15% contribution to health care is a small positive, but overlooked was the huge lost opportunity I was seeking, and County Executive Bellone said he was seeking, to obtain $35 million annually for health care contribution from present employees. That is now gone forever. That is $350 million over the life of this contract. Yes, there will be some savings from newcomers, but how can you budget that as a $17 million a year saving when it is conceded they aren’t hiring anyone for quite a while. It is now clear that much of this supposed saving is coming from a renegotiation with the health care provider, which would have happened with or without this contract.
4). Yes there is a negotiated wage freeze for two years, but there is little mention that steps continue. When it comes to police, there is big money in the steps.
5) When I said we needed a wage freeze for the police department that meant freezing steps as well. This is what Nassau got from the control board. Suffolk should have been seeking state approval for this step freeze if we were in such dire condition as they stated.
6) The two year freeze is no big deal given the other unions already agreed to that.
7) How can they call the freeze a saving of tens of millions of dollars if we were never under obligation to pay any increases for 2011 or beyond. This exposes the fact that the Bellone budget panel was inflating the deficit by claiming the salaries were owed, when they weren’t. They exaggerated this number just as they did with the $86 million in additional phantom welfare costs, and a ridiculously low 1.5% estimate for sales tax growth, which is actually growing around five percent. All this adds up to hundreds of millions in bogus deficit.
8) Little scrutiny was given to the highway shift. Well, there will now be fifty-five officers taken off patrol and put back on highways. Why didn’t anyone ask how Suffolk would do without these officers If they are going to be replaced where are you getting the ten million dollars annually to do it, and why wasn’t that calculated in the numbers that were thrown about. Keeping an additional fifty- five officers unnecessarily on the payroll equates to about $100,000,000 in additional taxpayer obligations over the ten year deal.
9) Agreements with the Correction Officers and Sheriffs did away with outrageous sick pay cash outs upon retirement. but no such giveback is included in this deal despite the fact that some police department members depart with up to $300,000 in unused time.
10) The deal imposes reverse civilianization. The prior administration embarked upon plans to end the wasteful practice of having two cops in every helicopter.It is far more sensible to have a less expensive, more medically oriented EMT on board. This deal cans the EMTs and requires the use of two expensive officers.
Getting a deal for the sake of a deal is not always what is best for taxpayers. Both Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and former Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch recently issued reports noting that local governments throughout the state and nation are facing pressures unprecedented in generations. Now was the time to strike while the iron was hot. If you can’t get real, significant concessions that eliminate structural imbalances at this juncture, you’ll never get them. A golden opportunity has been squared with this ten year deal.
Steve Levy is president of Common Sense Strategies, a political, governmental and business consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County executive from 2004-2011.