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Rotterdam police get raise in new contract but will pay more toward health care costs

Thursday, June 13, 2013
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— Rotterdam police officers will get a 2 percent raise retroactive to 2011, but will pay 15 percent of their health care premiums and be capped at banking a maximum 120 hours of compensatory time per year, under their new contract.

The Town Board unanimously adopted the new contract with the Rotterdam Police Benevolent Association this week, following more than three years of negotiation. The agreement, which runs through 2015, will cost the town roughly $199,000 in salary increases, including retroactive pay raises for 2011, 2012 and this year.

Still, the new contract should help curb future costs for the town through retirement and health care savings. Supervisor Harry Buffardi said the deal should head off future costs for the department by reducing nondiscretionary areas that often drive budget increases.

“The big bulk of the savings in this contract are going to be in the years to come,” he said Thursday.

Under the previous contract, officers hired before 2004 could accumulate up to 480 hours of compensatory time per year and then cash it in during their last years before retirement. By inflating their pay, officers could also increase the amount they receive in an annual pension, which is based on the average salary a worker earns during the last three years of employment.

With the new contract, all officers will be capped at accruing 120 hours of compensatory time per year. New hires with the department will be eligible to bank only 104 hours per year, according to the deal.

Officers will receive a $25 increase in longevity pay that will be capped at 20 years. They will also be permitted to reside outside of Rotterdam after five years without penalty — a departure from past practice, when they could live outside the town only by sacrificing holiday time.

But the PBA also made concessions. All union members will join the health insurance plan that insures most town employees. The move will result in significant cost savings to the town starting in 2014 and beyond.

“This agreement brings greater financial stability to the town through 2015,” said Town Attorney Kate McGuirl, who helped negotiate the contract.

The new contract also creates a drug and alcohol testing policy for the department. Under the agreement, officers will be subject to drug testing before they are hired and afterward whenever reasonable suspicion exists.

The new policy also includes a provision for random testing after an accident that involves death or serious physical injury. Also, they will be subject to follow-up random testing in the event of failing an alcohol or drug screening.

Attempts to reach Rotterdam PBA President Mark Frodyma were unsuccessful Thursday. Buffardi said the new contract was well supported by the PBA membership, which resoundingly adopted it.

“The number was quite overwhelming,” he said.

Like most municipalities with a police force, Rotterdam’s department represents the greatest single piece of the town’s $21.5 million budget for 2013. The Police Department was allocated $5.49 million this year, a 0.2 percent increase over the 2012 budget.

The Rotterdam PBA represents 40 officers who will collectively absorb about $2.95 million of the department’s budget this year. This includes salaries for 23 patrolmen, two school resource officers, six detectives, six sergeants, and three lieutenants.

The latest police union contract expired at the end of 2010. The previous agreement negotiated by then-Supervisor Steve Tommasone was ratified in November 2008, after a prolonged stalemate with the PBA.

Buffardi said negotiations were ongoing through the administration of Supervisor Frank Del Gallo and never broke down. He characterized the deal as one that is both favorable to the town and the police officers.

“Certainly, it was a very cautious negotiation on the part of the town and it’s something we can afford without breaking the backs of taxpayers,” he said.

 
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