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Letter: Nassau cops, others deserve end to wage freeze

Twenty seven Nassau County Police officers plus 9

Twenty seven Nassau County Police officers plus 9 officers from other agencies took part in graduation ceremonies for the latest class from the Nassau County Police Academy Monday at SUNY Old Westbury. (Dec. 30, 2013) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Over the past several weeks, Newsday has intensified its stories on the wage freeze imposed by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority in March 2011 ["Nassau's woes even bleaker," Editorial, April 15].

County employees have not had a raise since 2010, and we are in the midst of an unprecedented fourth year of the freeze, which not only suspends contractually negotiated raises through 2015 but also bars "step" raises earned during the first eight years of employment.

Since 2008, the Nassau County Police Department has had more than 550 retirements, yet only 33 police officers have been hired. As a result, in five years the department's uniformed head count plummeted from 2,720 to less than 2,190.

The current police officer waiting list will expire May 5, and the court has stated there will be no further extensions allowing the county to use it for hiring. But Nassau needs to start hiring police officers, not only to replenish the decreased ranks, but to prepare for expected retirements. There are about 1,300 police officers eligible to retire.

Under the current settlement to end the wage freeze, Nassau would be able to hire hundreds of police officers over the next few years at a significantly lower cost. The settlement presented to NIFA would require new hires to contribute 15 percent toward health insurance, begin at a lower pay scale and contribute toward their pensions.

Counsel to the New York State pension system has reviewed the proposal and concluded that the settlement requires new employees to contribute. The counsel's letter was sent to the county and shared with NIFA weeks ago

Newsday simply wants public servants to solve all of the county's fiscal difficulties even though they aren't to blame. Unions followed the strict guidelines set by NIFA on lifting the wage freeze. We provided the concessions NIFA deemed acceptable and the settlements had NIFA input. County workers have sacrificed more than their fair share for the past four years.

Most county workers are Nassau residents who deserve to be compensated for doing more with less over these last few years. By pretending that the wage freeze settlement hurts the county, Newsday is belittling the great work performed by Nassau's police officers and its other public servants. It's time for the wage freeze to end after four years of no raises. Let's bring closure and certainty to all.

James Carver, Mineola

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