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Committee passes Suffolk correction officers contract

The new contract would freeze starting pay at

The new contract would freeze starting pay at $30,000 for new correction officers. Photo Credit: NEWSDAY / Newsday/Daniel Goodrich

The proposed $52.8 million settlement with Suffolk correction officers was voted out of a legislative committee Wednesday, although some lawmakers raised concerns about the recruiting impact of lowering starting pay by $4,000, to $30,000 a year.

The eight-year contract was voted out of the government operations committee without recommendation because legislative budget analysts had not finished their assessment of it. The full county legislature must decide on the agreement.

The Bellone administration issued a fiscal impact statement indicating that the contract will increase costs by a total of $61.68 million, but also includes savings of $8.84 million. The agreement grants raises totaling 14.5 percent for current officers,

The administration's estimates do not include the long-term impact of deferred raises totaling 4 percent in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The analysis also does not detail the impact of $2,400 in one-time cash payments that most of the 892 correction officers will collect when they retire or leave county employment. The county also has the option to make the payment in 2020.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said most deferral costs were not included because the law requires that fiscal impact statements cover only a five year period.

But Schneider said there will be no long-term negative impact because of the "huge savings" from the new pay schedule.

Committee members spoke favorably about the new pact, which runs from 2011 to 2018. But some expressed concern about the lower starting pay of $30,000, compared with the current $34,781. They also noted a new 24-step pay scale for new hires under which it will take 12 years to reach top step of $78,690.

"That's ridiculously low," Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said of the new starting pay.

Legis. Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) said the county may not attract high quality workers. He noted the new starting pay is 26 cents an hour below the wage of bridge tenders, for whom the committee approved an increase to $16.68 an hour because the county is having trouble filling those jobs.

Sheriff's chief of staff Michael Sharkey said the office has concerns and will report back to lawmakers if recruiting becomes a problem.


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