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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone puts off decision on lag payroll for union workers

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has agreed to delay implementation of a lag payroll as union leaders meet with the administration about a possible alternative.

Bellone had planned to make a decision this week, but Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the county executive has agreed to a week’s delay to allow the union to come forward with an alternative.

The Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees, which criticized the administration’s plan to temporarily withhold $11.5 million in pay from county workers in a full-page newspaper ad this week, made a proposal at a meeting Wednesday at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge.

“It was productive in that we realized the negotiation is still open,” union president Brian Macri said. Bellone “still intends on getting the money. It’s up to us to figure out how to come up with it.”

Macri declined to describe the union’s alternative because negotiations are continuing.

The county is facing a budget deficit of more than $100 million. Bellone earlier this month declared a fiscal state of emergency for the fifth year.

Under the lag payroll, workers would defer 10 days’ pay through 2016, spread out over 10 pay periods. They would receive the pay when they retire or leave county employment, at the salary rate they are receiving at the time.

The union pushed back against the lag payroll in a full-page newspaper ad Wednesday, saying union members can’t afford to defer the pay. The ad in Newsday said the plan would hurt county sales tax revenue as members reduce spending.

The union’s board of directors has rejected an administration plan to get the savings by using reserves in the union benefit fund.

The lag payroll option was agreed to in a four-year contract in 2012, negotiated by the prior union leadership. While campaigning for re-election last summer, Bellone indicated that he would not impose a lag payroll.

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