Nassau lawmakers could vote Monday to end county workers' wage freeze
Nassau lawmakers are expected to vote Monday on agreements that would end a three-year wage freeze for county workers, even as state approval of a key measure to cover the deals' costs remains uncertain.
The county legislature's Rules Committee will consider memorandums of agreement between County Executive Edward Mangano and the Police Benevolent Association, Civil Service Employees Association, Detectives Association and Superior Officers Association. The correction officers union has yet to reach a deal.
If the committee approves them, the full legislature is scheduled to hold a special meeting Monday on the pacts, which reinstate cost-of-living raises and "step" increases for length of service that have been frozen since early 2011. They would set lower salary scales and begin health care contributions for future hires.
Nassau Comptroller George Maragos estimated last week that the agreements would cost $120 million over four years if expected new revenues, including from proposed speed cameras in school zones, don't materialize. The legislature's budget review office said Friday that the cost could range from $120 million to $189 million, counting employee attrition, and $223 million to $292 million without attrition savings.
Jon Kaiman, head of the county's fiscal control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, has projected the costs at $129 million. He has asked Mangano to dedicate the revenue from speed cameras, and increased sales tax and mortgage recording fees, in case the union concessions don't fully cover the agreements' costs.
The State Senate and Assembly have yet to pass legislation to authorize speed cameras, which NIFA has estimated will generate $8 million or more a year. Some state lawmakers want Nassau to split revenue with villages, raising doubts about NIFA's estimates.
Kaiman last week said NIFA's board likely would wait until late April to consider the union agreements. Although he's awaiting further information from Albany, Kaiman said he's "definitely comfortable letting the [State] Legislature do what is best for the legislature.
"There's no perfect time to do everything, so we all do the best we can," Kaiman said.
The union deals are on the agenda, but county legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) has the ability to request they be tabled, if developments warrant.
"I am going to do what is necessary to ensure the best interests of Nassau taxpayers," Gonsalves said on Friday.
Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said he wants assurances from state lawmakers that they will authorize cameras. "We have to make sure we do our due diligence that the revenue is going to be there," Abrahams said.
Mangano's office didn't respond to a request for comment. The administration has said the cost of the deals will be less than $129 million and that the negotiated concessions, including health care contributions from new hires, will ultimately save Nassau hundreds of millions of dollars.
Union leaders say that while the agreements won't recoup all of the wages lost since 2011, waiting on their appeals of court rulings that have upheld the freeze won't get workers the immediate relief they need.
CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta noted that some members have been frozen at salaries of less than $25,000, and said the lack of speed camera approval should not delay lawmakers' consideration of the deals.
"I know there's been an awful lot of work on all sides to coordinate the timing," Laricchiuta said Friday. "And the lifting of the wage freeze is not married to this [state speed camera] legislation. It's just one of many proposals for how we can raise revenue for this."