Raises contained in a new contract for Brookhaven highway workers will necessitate changes in next year's town budget to avoid adding to a projected 1.89% tax increase, officials said.
The 210-member highway workers union on Oct. 28 voted 135-57 to ratify the 12-year agreement, which includes annual raises totaling 21.25% over the life of the contract, town officials said. Raises will vary from year to year, they said.
Next year's budget must be amended to include about $265,000 in raises from the new deal, Brookhaven Finance Commissioner Tamara Branson and Chief of Operations Matt Miner said Monday in an interview. Miner said that amount could be trimmed from other parts of the budget to avoid exceeding the state cap on tax levy increases.
"We’re looking at seeing where we can make some offsets," Miner said, adding that adjustments could be made to retirement and insurance costs before the town board votes on Nov. 18 to approve the budget. "I don’t think you’re talking about too big of a percentage."
The new highway workers contract and its impact on spending were announced Thursday during a town board public hearing on the proposed 2022 town budget.
Brookhaven officials last month had announced a $316.8 million budget for 2022 that would raise taxes by about $10.93 on a non-village home assessed at $2,750. The average town tax hike for residents of villages would be $3.88, they said, adding the increases do not exceed the tax cap.
The new highway workers contract is retroactive to January 2020; highway employees had been working without a contract since the end of 2019, Miner said.
Brookhaven officials also are negotiating new contracts with the town's white-collar and blue-collar workers.
White-collar workers have filed a declaration of impasse that could lead to contract mediation, Miner said.
Speaking at the public hearing, John Kelly, president of the Brookhaven white-collar workers unit of the Civil Service Employees Association, said a hypothetical 2% annual raise would cost the town "less than half-a-million dollars a year." White-collar employees have worked without a contract for nearly two years, he said.
"Asking us to pay for all the increases in health insurance and everything else is absurd," Kelly said, with union members sitting behind him at a town hall meeting room. "You don’t do that for any of the other expenses, so therefore all of this should be borne by the 500,000 residents of the Town of Brookhaven, not just the 700 full-time employees who are here. It’s entirely unfair."
CSEA represents about 315 white-collar Brookhaven employees and 200 blue-collar workers.
Brookhaven officials have declined to comment on specifics of negotiations with white- and blue-collar employees. Miner said town officials plan to meet with negotiators for the blue-collar unit within the next several weeks.