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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 19, 2011

No raises for police

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — After months of negotiations, the town and the police benevolent association have agreed on a union contract — with no raises for 2011.

On Tuesday, the town board voted 3-to-2, split down party lines, to ratify the contract. The Democratic Supervisor, Kenneth Runion, and the two Democratic council members, Patricia Slavick and Paul Pastore, ratified the contract. Republican councilmen Mark Grimm and Warren Redlich voted against it.

The two-year contract provides no pay raise for 2011, which is what all town employees, including the members of the other three unions, had agreed to.

“Every employee and union has pitched in during this economic downturn,” said Runion.

 “Both sides worked very hard to find common ground, and made concessions they weren’t willing to make at the beginning of negotiations,” said Michael Ravalli attorney for Guilderland’s Police Benevolent Association.

The two Civil Service Employees’ Association unions and the United Public Service Employees Union had settled one-year contracts with the town several months ago. The PBA, however, would not agree to a one-year extender contract, and pushed for a two-year contract instead.

Although there is no pay raise provided for 2011, there are staggered raises built into the contract for 2012.  Members of the PBA will receive a 1-percent raise on Jan. 1, 2012, and another 2-percent raise on July 1, 2012.

Redlich said the raise was the primary reason he voted against the contract.

“The contract essentially gives them a 3-percent raise when all other town employees are taking a pay freeze. Why are we treating the police officers differently than town employees?” Redlich asked yesterday. He said he believes the officers are overpaid to begin with.

The Guilderland PBA has 35 members, and its salaries are set by rank.

Officers made $44,702 upon hire in 2010, $71,125 after five years, and $74,603 after 18 years; senior patrol officers make $57,602 upon hire and $77,062 after 18 years; sergeants make $73,488 to start and $84,057 after 18 years; first sergeants make $75,205 to start and $85,239 after 18 years; detectives made $45,547 to start and $76,448 after 18 years; and senior detectives make $50,164 to start and $80,064 after 18 years.

Overtime pay adds substantially to police pay. Salaries in 2010 ranged from $61,207 to $119,599, and five officers were paid over $100,000.

Runion said yesterday that the rest of the town employees will be re-negotiating contracts in 2012, and will likely receive similar pay raises to the 3-percent built into the PBA contract at that point.

“I don’t think we would have been able to get away with another 0-percent raise next year anyway,” said Runion. He said that, if the town had tried to convince the PBA to accept a one-year extender contract with no raise, it could have resulted in a greater than 3-percent raise during re-negotiations and 2012.

The PBA also agreed to increase its contributions to health insurance in 2012. The town currently pays 75 percent of the cost of health insurance, but will pay 60 percent beginning in 2012. Runion said that would help cover the cost of the 3-percent raises.

“We just need to look for savings in other ways,” the supervisor said. He anticipates several retirements within the department, and said that, within the contract, a first sergeant position was eliminated and replaced with a patrolman, which will save $32,000 annually.

Redlich doesn’t think the savings will be enough.

“To give them a 3-percent raise is too much; we are not flush with money right now; in fact, we are spending more than we’re taking in,” said Redlich. The sales-tax revenues for the first quarter of 2011 are below what the town budgeted for, he said, and there is no way to know what revenues will be in 2012.

Redlich conceded, however, that settling the contract eliminated the risk of going to arbitration.

If the town and PBA had not been able to come to an agreement on the contract, it would have been taken to the Public Employee Relations Board, which does mediation. If PERB could not resolve the issue, the police could have demanded binding arbitration, which would mean hiring an outside arbitrator to make decisions on what type of salary increases or other benefits should be added to the contract.

“In general terms, the PBA is satisfied…I think the whole contract is a recognition by the PBA that there may be immediate fiscal restraints facing the town, but it is good long-term economic shape,” concluded Ravalli. “I think that’s a credit to the people who run the town.”

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