Suffolk police officers would be able to defer up to 150 hours of overtime and vacation pay until they retire under a proposal by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to save the county money in the short term.
The county expects to reduce police payroll by $1.7 million this year and $1.9 million in 2016 if 20 percent of the 1,640 Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association members take the offer, Bellone spokesman Justin Meyers said.
He said the county could not estimate the future cost of the deferral, when the officers are paid at retirement after raises and promotions. The administration has no plans to offer additional deferrals, Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said.
Police officer salaries will increase by 11 percent over the next three years, including 1.75 percent raises on Dec. 1 and again on Jan. 1, according to a legislative analysis of the PBA's contract.
Meyers said the county approached the PBA for short-term cost-saving ideas and the union suggested the voluntary deferral.
Bellone has said Suffolk has a $90 million structural deficit -- the difference between recurring revenue and expenses.
"We make a number of tough choices throughout the year to make sure we're balancing our budget," he said.
Republican lawmakers criticized the deferral, saying it would increase costs in the long run.
"To continue to push today's obligations to the future is very dangerous fiscal policy," said Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore).
Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said, "For the officers, it's a great deal. The administration is trying to do whatever they can to kick the can down the road."
The county already has ordered mandatory deferral of about 100 hours of overtime, vacation and other pay for police supervisors and detectives for 2015 and 2016, saving $4.2 million. Contracts with those unions gave the county executive the power to make the move.
Suffolk also could force members of its largest union, the Association of Municipal Employees, to defer hours until retirement. Meyers said the county plans not to use that option, at the union's request.
The Suffolk County Legislature is scheduled to vote on the memorandum of agreement with the PBA Nov. 17. It will vote on the 2016 budget, submitted by Bellone last month, on Nov. 4, the day after Election Day.
The agreement allows police union members to defer 50, 100 or 150 hours of overtime, vacation or night differential pay. Suffolk PBA president Noel DiGerolamo, who has signed the agreement, said he intends to sign up for the program himself.
James O'Connor, the Republican running against Bellone for county executive, has criticized the police contracts and called them "sweetheart deals" for the unions, which have backed Bellone.
"First he crafts an outrageous deal giving law enforcement $227,000-a-year salaries and then pushes off paying the bill to another county executive years down the road," O'Connor said of Bellone.
Police detectives are slated to make $227,000 in 2018, when all the major police contracts expire.