Suffolk lawmakers scrutinize new PBA pact

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in Hauppauge. (July

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in Hauppauge. (July 31, 2012) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

After a month of delays, a third version of County Executive Steve Bellone's pact with the Suffolk PBA was sent Friday to county lawmakers, who vowed to scrutinize the deal for "trap doors" before ratifying it.

Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) said he turned over long-awaited details of the deal and the executive's fiscal impact statement to the Office of Budget Review so it can complete its own analysis in time for a special meeting of the budget committee, called for Wednesday.

Bellone's fiscal analysis now estimates that the deal will save the county $43 million in upfront savings, but cost $203 million through 2018.

"I'm pleased there are upfront dollars to help with the budget issue," said Horsley, but he added, "If there are any trap doors, we are going to find them."

Top Bellone aides told the Democratic majority caucus they will prepare emergency resolutions to allow a vote on the Police Benevolent Association deal at Thursday's legislative meeting along with a separate pact with all county unions, which requires all new county workers to pay a share of health premiums.

Aides to Bellone, a Democrat, say quick action is needed to include savings in Bellone's 2013 proposed budget, which is due Sept. 21. They added that delays in implementing the health concession agreement could cost the county $1.4 million in savings monthly.

Bellone's fiscal analysis also lays out scenarios for hiring 50 to 80 officers annually over the next five years to offset promotions, replace retirees and create a lower pay structure for new officers, who also would share 15 percent of health premium costs.

Horsley said Bellone aides told him Bellone's budget will include new police hirings though he could not say how many -- a position Bellone aides confirm.

The police deal, first announced early last month as unprecedented and landmark, created a firestorm after it was disclosed it could hike pay for existing cops to as much as $201,000 a year by 2020. Later, Bellone said he trimmed the deal to six years where top veteran officers could reach $168,000 a year. The deal now before lawmakers would extend pay hike guarantees to eight years and veteran officers could make $172,675 a year.

"I don't think the public has any faith the administration is watching their back," said former County Executive Steve Levy, a Republican, who also noted that the savings estimates are based on projections of what arbitration would have awarded, which could be overstated. "There are taxpayer land mines all over this deal that are going to explode," he said.

Jon Schneider, deputy county executive, countered, "The prior county executive was unable to reach a settlement, which resulted in an arbitration and three years of 3.5 percent increases and no real concessions."

Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley), Public Safety Committee chairwoman, praised the deal saying the pay hikes are the lowest in 30 years while arbitration could have resulted in raises "two to three times higher."

But Legis. Thomas Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said he is "already getting calls and emails from constituents wondering how we can afford this proposal." He added, "We may have to look at this in the context of what could happen in arbitration. This may be the lesser of two evils."

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