Amityville trustees want village police to make wage concessions

An Amityville Police car sits on the side An Amityville Police car sits on the side of Broadway in Amityville Village on Tuesday, February 25, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Amityville finances are shaky, Mayor James Wandell said in his State of the Village address as he appealed to the union that represents the village police officers to renegotiate their contract.

"We need help and we need it from the Amityville PBA," he said in the speech last week, referring to the Police Benevolent Association. Village and union leaders must "come to the table together to find some solutions to the fiscal dilemma."

That fiscal situation is dire, he said, noting recent credit ratings that put village debt close to junk status and a February report by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli that described the village as facing "significant fiscal stress." Amityville also faces $5 million in unfunded liabilities for such expenses as retiree health insurance, he said.

In a statement, PBA president Chris Mullin wrote that the union has historically demonstrated a "willingness to come to the table when times are hard" and has already deferred more than $200,000 in night differential pay. He said the union last year made wage concessions, including a 30-month wage freeze. Nobody from the administration has contacted the union since Wandell's speech last week, he added.

Compensation for 24 police officers accounts for most of the $4.7 million in police spending in the $14.9 million 2014-2015 village budget, and Wandell was one of three trustees who signed a letter to PBA officials earlier this year asking for a cap on the base pay of top-earning officers.

Deputy Mayor Jessica Bernius and trustee Nick LaLota also signed that letter, which union officials criticized as a campaign gimmick by LaLota, who was running for trustee at the time.

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Police officers are among the village's highest-paid employees, records show. Seven officers earned more than $150,000 last year under a contract designed to compensate village officers at roughly the same rate as Suffolk County officers.

The current contract runs through 2018. Union officials are not obligated to reopen negotiations until then.

Trustee Dennis Siry said the village "could definitely use some adjustments" to the current contract and that he looked forward to discussions with the union. But both the terms of the earnings cap proposal and the public manner in which it was presented had needlessly antagonized union officials, he said.

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"We will have a hard time . . . because of the way they were disrespected and spoken to," he said.

Wandell's speech also noted some bright spots for the village. Wellington Park Villas, a residential development that once seemed in danger of failing, is 90 percent rented, he said, and the village is in line to receive as much as $5.5 million through the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program. Resident committees and changes in the way meetings are run have increased citizen participation in village affairs, he said.

But some problems the village is facing will not be easily fixed, he said. The downtown commercial vacancy rate is 19 percent and new development in the village is "increasingly scarce," he said. Major capital projects such as road repairs that will require borrowing will have to be put off until the village's fiscal situation improves, he said.

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