Real savings in Nassau-PBA pact hard to find

Nassau County police cars sit outside the sixth

Nassau County police cars sit outside the sixth precinct in Manhasset. (Oct. 10, 2011) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Joye Brown

Newsday columnist Joye Brown Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006.

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It was impossible to make heads or tails out of a proposed agreement between Nassau and its largest police union.

That's because no copy of the agreement was made available to reporters on Friday.

There was only a so-called fact sheet, which was almost impossible to decipher.


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Take, for example, the first fact: That a proposed amendment to the county's existing contract with the Police Benevolent Association "saves taxpayer dollars."

It notes that new police officers would make a 15 percent contribution to healthcare costs "for the first time in Nassau County history."

And that new hires would make some pension contributions and be paid on a reduced salary structure that would take them longer to reach the $130,000 top pay scale.

The fact sheet introduces those savings by saying that Nassau -- which is under a state control board, and which finished last year in the red -- intends to hire 150 new police officers by January.

And 500 more over the next four years. How? With what money? And how would Nassau fund the termination pay for the about 80 percent of the department eligible for retirement by 2015?

The fact sheet does not say.

Nassau also wants to pay back half of what police officers lost under two years of state control board-imposed salary and step increase freezes.

In return, the union would drop a wage-freeze lawsuit.

The county appears to be banking on the control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, losing its appeal -- and leaving cash-strapped Nassau with $230 million in back wage repayments.

It's the same kind of thinking that prevailed in Suffolk last year, when County Executive Steve Bellone and county unions negotiated a pact that helped Bellone for one budget year -- while significantly increasing police-related expenses for years more until officers earning less take the place of the current force.

Suffolk's justification was that the deal likely was better than one police unions could have won in binding arbitration.

Bellone, like Mangano and the police union, announced the agreement without releasing copies. But he later had to twice amend the pact after residents and some lawmakers balked at its costs.

In Nassau, the fact sheet shows that by the end of 2017 the proposal will have yielded a whooping $321 million in savings -- but it appears to be predicated in part on hiring a slew of newer, lower-paid officers.

Mangano -- two months before Election Day -- appears to be sprinting toward a series of proposed agreements, including also-as-yet-unexamined ones with Nassau's largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, and part-time faculty at Nassau Community College.

It will be up to county lawmakers -- most of whom, like Mangano, also are seeking re-election -- to sift through the agreements to determine if they make sense for taxpayers.

But the final determination will rest with NIFA, which likely will be looking for Nassau to show $100 million in permanent savings before approving any proposed pact.

They're not running for anything.