Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said late Monday that he's shortened the duration of his contract agreement with the Police Benevolent Association -- guaranteeing officers four fewer years of raises.
If approved by both lawmakers and union members, the new tentative pact between the county and PBA would grant officers' salary increases through 2016, giving the highest-paid officers compensation of $167,848.
In the initial agreement announced earlier this month, the officers would have seen their base pay frozen until June 2013, then they would have received raises through 2020, which used to be the last year of the proposed contract. The new tentative pact would expire in 2018.
Bellone said that the contract can be reopened in 2016 to look at the raise issue. All other existing terms -- including a no-layoff promise and an ability for officers to boost pay with educational credits -- are unchanged.
The prior agreement had called for Suffolk's highest-paid veteran officers to earn up to $201,102 annually by 2020 when accounting for overtime, holiday pay, longevity pay and other forms of compensation. Newsday detailed the provisions of that tentative pact Monday.
Under the modified agreement, a top-step officer's base salary would be $129,899 as of 2016 and, with all forms of added compensation, can go as high as $167,848. From then until December 2018, raises would be subject to negotiation.
"I think there were concerns on both sides, legitimate concerns, of not knowing what the economy will bring in the later years," Bellone said. "We think this makes sense. It maintains the core of the agreement, but provides some flexibility."
The PBA -- in exchange largely for getting back jurisdiction over patrols of the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway -- has accepted no retroactive raises in 2011 or 2012 and no increase in the first half of next year.
From mid-2013 through mid-2015, police will receive biannual raises of 1.5 percent. From that point through 2016, police will receive biannual raises of 1.75 percent. Other terms of the deal call for new officers' starting salaries to be frozen at $42,000 and require them to now go through more steps to reach their top base pay rates.
Also, new police officers, as is the case with all new county hires beginning next year, will for the first time pay 15 percent of their health care premiums.
PBA president Noel DiGerolamo didn't respond to requests for comment Monday night.
Even though he and Bellone called the original contract a "landmark" deal that would help taxpayers in the short term, its length and locked-in raises were increasingly worrying county lawmakers, who are set to vote on the pact next month.
Even those who originally said they'd support it were re-examining the numbers, trying to determine the impact should Suffolk's budget woes continue.
The county faces a projected $300 million deficit next year, and Bellone is touting that, by not having to award police raises for 2011 and 2012, Suffolk will save $30 million.
"I think Bellone deserves credit, because I think he got a better deal than we would have gotten from arbitration," Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said last week, referring to the fact that the deal was the first negotiated with the PBA outside of arbitration in 20 years. "But I think it'll still be expensive for taxpayers."
Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said his colleagues expressed their concerns to him over the 10-year term, and its repercussions.
"Because we have a county executive and a PBA president who are willing to work together and work with the legislature," Lindsay said Monday, "we have now improved upon this landmark agreement."
Critics of the original deal, including former County Executive Steve Levy, had said the Bellone administration was locking itself into an agreement that guaranteed no additional PBA givebacks until 2020. But Bellone noted Monday that arbitration has historically provided area police unions with annual raises above 3 percent a year, without concessions on retroactive pay and new member health care contributions.
"That's what's killed taxpayers: elected officials who talk a good game, but fail to take responsibility," Bellone said.
NEW TENTATIVE PACT FOR SUFFOLK POLICE
Under a modified tentative agreement between Suffolk County and the PBA, police officers' scheduled raises are locked in through 2016, rather than 2020. For 2017 and 2018 -- the modified contract's end date -- the raises would be subject to new negotiations:
Potential pay for existing top-step officers, as of Dec. 2016
BASE PAY: $129,899
HOLIDAY PAY: $7,279
NIGHT DIFFERENTIAL: $9,742
LONGEVITY PAY (15 years on force): $6,750
OVERTIME (2011 average amount of 203 hours, at top step): $14,178
Potential pay for existing top-step officers, under previous tentative deal, as of Dec. 2020
BASE PAY: $149,238
HOLIDAY PAY: $8,363
NIGHT DIFFERENTIAL: $17,909
LONGEVITY PAY (15 years on force): $7,500