The Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday night approved funding three domestic violence advocates stationed at police precincts and courts, employed by a nonprofit group.
The legislature at its meeting in Riverhead also unanimously approved a contract with correction officers that will cost an additional $52.8 million over the next five years, but cut the cost of newly hired officers.
The group LI Against Domestic Violence would get $79,000 to restore positions cut after the loss of a federal grant and private foundation funding. The county would offset that cost by leaving vacant a position at its Criminal Justice Coordinating Council this year.StoryPol: OK $887G grant for laid-off staff
"We're going to get the program back to full capacity," said Colleen Merlo, executive director of the nonprofit. "We're happy."
Merlo said it would take about three months to rehire the advocates, who help domestic violence victims navigate the legal system and access services.
County spokesman Justin Meyers said the county funding would "bridge the gap between the loss of federal funding and identifying a long-term funding source for this."
Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), sponsor of the resolution, said the county was still hoping for the federal grant to be restored this year.
The Suffolk County Correction Officers Association contract, covering 2011 through 2018, provides raises totaling 18.52 percent for current officers, an average of 2.32 percent per year, according to an analysis by the legislature's nonpartisan Budget Review Office.
Starting pay of new hires will be $30,000, compared with the current $34,781. It will take 12 years for new hires to reach the top step of $78,690. Current officers will have top base pay of $93,283.
Each new officer will save the county $377,929 over 12 years, county officials said.
Lawmakers expressed concern that starting pay was too low and the quality of applicants could deteriorate.
"You're dealing with the worst people in the world; it's not safe, and you're being asked to do it on this kind of salary," said Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley).
Union president Lou Viscusi said members, who haven't had a raise in five years, ratified the agreement by a 61 percent margin and urged passage.
Jon Schneider, deputy county executive, said the administration got the best deal for the county.
"Anyone who would pay more than the other party is willing to accept is failing Negotiating 101," Schneider said.
The legislature also approved a $215 million operating budget for Suffolk Community College that will raise tuition by $180 a year. The budget includes $495,000 from the county for college equipment, which college representatives said was a compromise with County Executive Steve Bellone and lawmakers. College trustees will vote on the budget tomorrow.
Lawmakers also approved making an offer to purchase and preserve nearly 100 acres along the Peconic River. The former Broad Cove Duck Farm, next to Indian Island County Park, has been a top priority for environmental advocates for decades, advocates said yesterday. The offer price is confidential.
Lawmakers also approved $800,000 to move the district attorney's offices to two floors in the H. Lee Dennison building. Half the cost will be for construction and the other half for furniture, said Public Works Commissioner Gil Anderson. The move is expected to happen before the end of the year.