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NIFA hits state bill to loosen rules on step wage hikes

NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky and other board members

NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky and other board members criticized a state bill to loosen rules on step wage hikes. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Nassau’s financial control board is objecting to proposed state legislation that would allow the county’s union employees to get contractual step increases — salary hikes based on years in the job — even during a wage freeze.

The legislation, supported by Nassau’s police unions and the Civil Service Employees Association, has been filed in the State Assembly, but as yet does not have a Senate sponsor.

Worried that the bill may gain support during the bargaining that occurs at the end of every legislative session, the chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority went on record against the proposal Wednesday.

NIFA Chairman Adam Barsky wrote to legislative leaders, including Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), to say the board opposes the bill “because of its potentially detrimental effect on the ability of NIFA to perform its mission of returning the county to fiscal health.”

Barsky said the county has made progress toward a balanced budget since NIFA declared a financial emergency in 2011, but stressed that the county is still under financial controls.

“To remove a key power from the NIFA Act at this time would be detrimental to Nassau’s taxpayers and contrary of the desires of the county when it unanimously requested passage of the NIFA Act,” which set up the fiscal monitoring board in 2000.

Barsky noted that NIFA projects a deficit of more than $80 million in 2018 and additional financial risks of more than $90 million.

NIFA can declare an emergency, impose financial controls and suspend all salary increases if it determines that the county’s deficit exceeds 1 percent of its budget.

The proposed legislation would prevent NIFA from freezing step increases for four years if NIFA and the county legislature already had certified a four-year financial plan.

NIFA imposed a wage freeze in 2011 and lifted it in 2014 after unions agreed to new labor contracts.

NIFA approves a new four-year plan annually.

Hooper, who introduced the Assembly bill, could not immediately be reached for comment.

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