NIFA cancels meeting, delaying lifting of wage freeze for correction officers

NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman looks on during the NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman looks on during the Nassau Interim Finance Authority meeting at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale on Friday, May 2, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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Nassau correction officers and more than 500 county appointees remain under a 3-year wage freeze after the county's financial control board abruptly canceled a meeting Thursday where the freeze was expected to be lifted.

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority also was scheduled to approve a $1.14 billion contract for a private company to manage the county's sewer system for 20 years and a retirement incentive for county Civil Service Employees Association members.

Although the NIFA board did not meet, it released a staff analysis of County Executive Edward Mangano's updated multiyear financial plan that found $133 million in "significant risks" in this year's county budget.

They include $65 million in unbudgeted tax refunds, a projected $51 million sales tax shortfall, $43.2 million in higher personnel costs primarily due to lifting the freeze for all county employees and $20.7 million in overtime costs.

If all risks are realized, Nassau would face a $133 million deficit. County Comptroller George Maragos has predicted a $77 million cash deficit this year.

The Mangano administration has argued that new revenue, borrowing and tighter spending controls will close the gap.

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Meanwhile, $24.62 million in contracts on NIFA's agenda have been approved automatically because NIFA guidelines dictate that contracts take effect if not acted upon within 60 days of submission by the county. The contracts include superstorm Sandy-related repairs to the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, as well as $640,000 in outside legal contracts.

A Mangano spokesman referred questions to NIFA.

NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman said in an email that he canceled the meeting at 10 p.m. Wednesday because of a scheduled medical procedure that his doctor advised would make him late for yesterday's 9:30 a.m. meeting. He said he could not delay the starting time because NIFA members had other commitments.

John Jaronczyk, president of the Sheriff's Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said he emailed members after learning of the cancellation at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. "I asked for their patience. Hopefully this meeting will be rescheduled soon," Jaronczyk said.

He said personnel initiatives intended to save money, such as reassigning officers at the jail, were to take place Friday. A proposed agreement with the union would lift the pay freeze retroactively to June 1.

NIFA member Chris Wright, who voted against lifting the wage freeze for four other county unions because of the possible expense, said the county is temporarily saving money by not lifting the wage freeze.

"It's not a good sign of a control board's effectiveness when the county's budgetary picture improves because you didn't meet," he said. "It's also not a good sign of a control board's effectiveness when, other than that, there's no difference between what happens when you meet, and what happens when you don't meet."

Kaiman called Wright "dead wrong," saying the county will not save money because the raises are retroactive. Also, Kaiman said the county needs to hire more corrections officers to cut overtime and prevent dangerous working conditions.

"The county would be better served financially if we hire corrections officers under the new contract, not the old," said Kaiman, referring to concessions in the proposed agreement. "The county has set in motion the means to cover the costs of the labor contracts and I have every expectation that the county will meet that obligation."

The Nassau County Legislature in June approved a deal with the 900-member correction officers' union that would end the pay freeze and provided pay hikes totaling about 13 percent through 2017. Officials said the deal will cost $19 million over four years. The agreement also calls for members to give up one annual raise that would have been due in 2013. New members will pay 15 percent toward their health insurance if they choose the premium plan; they also can choose a less costly plan and not contribute.

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Also on NIFA's agenda Thursday was a retirement incentive for members of the Civil Service Employees Association, even though the county legislature is not expected to consider the plan until Friday.

CSEA President Jerry Laricchiuta said he wasn't worried about eventual approval of the incentive. "I don't think it's anything other than [Kaiman] wants a lead on what the legislators have to say."

The incentive is intended to save money in a county that fiscal experts predict will end this year with a budget deficit.

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