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Letter: Nassau police deal would save money

Nassau County police cars sit outside the sixth

Nassau County police cars sit outside the sixth precinct in Manhasset. (Oct. 10, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Newsday editorial board double-talks. An Aug. 12 editorial said that the Nassau County Police Department could reduce overtime costs by continuing to hire ["Fewer cops = more overtime"]. The reasoning was that new cops earn far less than retirees, and a new contract proposal between the county and the Police Benevolent Association would also create savings by slowing down the step raises of new hires.

After that editorial, County Executive Edward Mangano called me to get back to the negotiating table and revisit the contract deal. He wanted to see if we could settle the wage freeze lawsuit, while also restructuring the new hires' compensation package.

The compensation package is the key component of what the PBA and the county agreed to in anticipation of the county hiring 500 to 600 officers through the end of 2015, when the current PBA contract expires. Those potential hires, absent an agreement, would be placed into state pension Tier 6, meaning they would also not contribute toward their pensions. Pension contributions in the proposed settlement would save the county about $150 million over the life of the new officers' careers.

In addition, it would take new hires longer, 8.5 years, to reach top pay. New hires would also be required to either contribute 15 percent toward the county health plan, or the county would offer an alternative plan at 85 percent of the cost. Either option would save the county money.

Current employees would receive retroactive pay for the years their salaries were frozen, due to the illegal wage freeze, to be paid over three years. They would also receive delayed raises in 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as raises of 1.7 percent at the end of 2016 and a 1.75 percent raise in June of 2017.

In addition, time off for vacation and personal leave would be reduced, resulting in less overtime spending and saving millions of dollars each year. And 50 police officer positions would be replaced by civilians, for another substantial and immediate savings.

The Newsday editorial board showed its true colors when it stated in "Police pact bad for Nassau" [Editorial, Sept. 15], "Every day, the freeze saves the county money and makes Nassau workers itch more for a deal to thaw the freeze. Only [the Nassau Interim Finance Authority], which must approve a new contract and lift the freeze, is in the way. It needs to reject this deal."

The PBA prevailed earlier this year in its lawsuit against the county and NIFA, with the Eastern District Court ruling that NIFA did not have the authority to freeze wages. That decision was appealed by both the county and NIFA, with a judicial decision pending any day. The proposed settlement takes away the risk to the county of losing the lawsuit, receiving no concessions and owing unions nearly $250 million in back wages.

Simply stated, Newsday is unhappy that active police officers experienced too little pain in this agreement. However, this settlement not only reaches the goal that Newsday expressed in the Aug. 12 editorial, but also provides significant structural changes and savings, settles a lawsuit, and brings closure and certainty to both the county and the men and women who bravely protect and serve the residents of Nassau, day in and day out.

In that previous editorial, Newsday stated, "The county, the police department and the PBA all have something to gain from doing that deal under these circumstances." NIFA should see through the double-talk of the editorial board and approve this settlement, so the county can start hiring the police officers who are needed and obtain these structural savings.

James Carver, Mineola

Editor's note: The writer is president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association.