Suffolk County’s deputy sheriffs union, after a record impasse, has agreed to a new eight-year, $23.8 million contract that also ends their legal battle over County Executive Steve Bellone’s 2012 decision to return highway patrols to the county police.
The new pact, which runs from 2011 to 2018, provides 20.1 percent in cumulative salary increases, plus added adjustments for settling the lawsuit, that make the payout about 23 percent, Bellone aides said. The contract also includes a no-layoff provision.
The new pact includes zero increases for 2011 and 2012, puts off the effective date of 2013 raises until 2014, and defers raises in 2014 and 2015 until retirement, except for comp time and overtime. The pact, however, permits deputies to ask for that pay, starting in 2020, but payment will be at the county’s discretion.
It also provides pay hikes for current deputies of 3.25 percent in each of 2016, 2017 and 2018. The new contract will raise the pay for a top-step deputy with five years on the job from $75,246 a year to $90,346 as of Jan. 1, 2017, and $93,282 annually as of June 2018, the last increase in the new contract.
Like other county law enforcement union pacts, the new deputy sheriffs contract also freezes pay for new hires and lengthens the time it takes to hit the top pay step to 12 years, with step raises every six months. Pay for new deputy sheriffs will be frozen at $30,000 a year as it was in 2010 and will go to $78,690 after 12 years.
Bellone aides said the contract includes concessions totaling $5.37 million. “This saves a lot of money,” said Dennis Cohen, Bellone’s chief deputy. “There are no raises in 2011 and 2012 and the 2013 raises do not take effect until 2014.”
The new contract for new hires, he added, “resets the salary and freezes it for a period of time.” Their documents put the contract’s five-year cost through 2020 at $44.98 million.
John Becker, president of the 260-member deputy sheriffs union, said he is “elated” the union finally has a new pact after prolonged talks that created “a very difficult time” for members, who have been without a contract since 2010. “This closes a very unfortunate chapter for law enforcement in Suffolk County where agencies were pitted against each other as part of a game of political chess,” he said.
As part of the contract, the union has agreed to drop state and federal lawsuits in which the union claimed Bellone improperly reneged on an agreement, made by his predecessor Steve Levy, that gave deputies the exclusive role to patrol the Long Island Expressway and Sunrise Highway. The union had claimed they were owed lost overtime, which comes with highway work, but gave up claims to retroactive pay.
As partial compensation for dropping the lawsuits, all deputies will begin receiving what is known as special section pay, which will be increased by $758 to $2,318 to help bring deputies to parity with correction officers, who are now paid more.