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NIFA likely to move forward on new union deals
State Senate approval of new speed cameras for Long Island makes it more likely that Nassau’s financial control board on Friday will lift a three-year wage freeze on county employees.
County officials have said that revenue raised from the cameras, intended to fine speeders in school zones, would help pay for new amended contracts for county union employees.
With the senate's vote, “that issue is addressed,” Jon Kaiman, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority said Wednesday. "The county is coming forward with revenue and savings that give me greater confidence that they can cover the costs.”
NIFA, the state board in control of Nassau’s finances, is scheduled to meet Friday to consider approving Memorandums of Agreement with four of the five county unions — the Civil Service Employees Association, the Police Benevolent Association, the Detectives Association, and the Superior Officers Association. A deal with the county’s correction officers has yet to be finalized.
The agreements would end the wage freeze NIFA imposed in March 2011 and give union workers raises as of April 1.
NIFA in March outlined conditions the county and unions could meet to lift the freeze. The conditions included County Executive Edward Mangano dedicating $129 million in new revenue from speed cameras, mortgage recording fees and sales taxes to pay for increased salaries if union contract concessions do not generate the expected savings.
Alathough Mangano and union leaders contend that concessions will save hundreds of millions of dollars, NIFA estimated the cost at $129 million. The legislature's budget review office reported that the four union deals could cost from $120 million to $292 million, depending on when current employees retire and new employees are hired.
“The county has to commit to paying for this in full,” Kaiman said. “NIFA is not authorizing any (borrowing) to pay for this.”
Kaiman said the county has suggested five or six different revenue sources to pay for the deals, including increased fees and bringing in a private operator to run its sewer districts.
The sewer plan is not the same as a past proposal to sell the sewers to a private operator for an upfront payment, Kaiman said. NIFA rejected that proposal as a form of borrowing.
The private operator would "set their own fees and hire their own work force," while Nassau's sewer employees would be replaced through attrition and rotation to other vacant jobs in the county. The plan is "something they anticipate can save substantial dollars." he said.
Kaiman said it is up to the county, not NIFA, to determine what revenue sources it will use.
NIFA requested a list of options should a revenue shortfall occur. Accordingly, the administration provided a laundry list of options that can be enacted, but they may not necessarily be enacted.Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said NIFA "requested a list of options should a revenue shortfall occur. Accordingly, the administration provided a laundry list of options that can be enacted, but they may not necessarily be enacted."
CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta, whose members include sewer district employees, could not be reached for comment.
When NIFA approved the contract outlines in March, “I believe there was support for moving forward on this plan,” Kaiman said.
Although there have been setbacks, including the delay in speed camera legislation and a drop in sales tax revenues, “I don’t know that anything has changed so radically to suggest we should not go forward,” Kaiman said.