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Orangetown Board Calls for Pension, Arbitration Reform (VIDEO)

The Orangetown Town Council passed a resolution Tuesday calling for the state to reform the arbitration process related to contract negotiations and state pension system.

The Orangetown Board went through many revisions of its Memorializing Resolution regarding the PBA and binding arbitration.

"The main point is to put on the table for all to see the kind of predicament the town and all towns face when doing contract work with a bargaining unit, in this case, the PBA (Patrolmen's Benevolent Association)," Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart said. "Binding arbitration gives the town a choice of paying more money or paying more money in a time when nobody else is getting more money. A lot of people have been stuck at a salary level for a number of years. It's resulting in a situation where there is a different economy associated with municipal labor....it puts us in a tough spot. The way state law guides the arbitration process doesn’t' give us the opportunity to negotiate from a position based on the reality of the situation we face."

The town council is expected to vote soon on a proposed settlement in its negotiation with Orangetown police, possibly within the next two weeks. It may have come to a vote Tuesday, but Councilman Paul Valentine was absent as expected and the board wants to have a full council present for the vote.

The proposed five-year contract would include retroactive 2.25 percent raises for 2011 with Orangetown police seeing a 2.25 percent raise for 2012, 2.35 percent raise for 2013, 2.45 percent raise for 2014 and 2.50 percent raise for 2015. One reason Councilmen Valentine, Denis Troy and Tom Diviny have indicated their support of the settlement is that the alternative seems to be binding arbitration, which would likely leave the town paying for even higher raises.

"Arbitration is not a fair fight," Diviny said. "It is fighting with one hand behind your back. A lot of people say we should fight the PBA and unions and go to arbitration. It's not so easy when Ramapo is giving out (four percent raises) and Clarkstown is giving two and a half. We are trying to get the best deal. WE could go to arbitration and do better, but based on the decisions I have read and what other towns have, it's not a fair fight."

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The resolution passed by a 4-0 vote Tuesday (with Valentine absent) calls for the state to take two actions. One, which had been in the earlier version of the resolution, was to reform the arbitration process.

Another was added later in the day Tuesday. That one called for a change in the state pension system that would have all employees contribute three percent of their salary every year regardless of how long they have been in the job. The state made a change in 1999 so that employees only pay three percent for the first 10 years, then nothing. 

Troy explained that at the time, the pension system was "flush" due to the strength of the stock market. The towns were not putting money into the pension system at all at the time. Troy has been critical of the change made in 1999 in the past even though he is a union member who does not have to contribute to the pension fund because of it.

"I'm a union member with the county," Troy said. "I should be paying. Your first 10 years, you may be paid a lot less money and you are paying three percent of whatever that is. But for years 11 to 30 or 25, you pay nothing.

"What happened in the last seven or eight years as the stock market took a beating, the state controller had to keep the pension system whole. It is a mandate in terms of what level it has to be funded. The municipalities were the ones who made up the difference. Right now, this year, we're paying between 18 and 21 percent of whatever we pay in salaries for pensions. It makes no sense to me whatsoever that the taxpayers should be making up the difference to keep the pension system whole when an ill-considered law was passed in 1999 and nobody in the state senate or the state assembly, or the state controller, has seen fit to change it."

Troy argued that the pension system should be the first thing to change to help the towns stay under the state-mandated tax levy cap.

"If (Sen.) David Carlucci (D-Rockland), (Assemblywoman) Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) and (Assemblyman) Ken Zebrowski (D-New City) are serious about getting us help here, this is one of the things that should be right at the top of the list," Troy said. "I talked about this when we were doing the two percent cap in December. It's one thing for somebody on Mt. Olympus to say you are going to come in at two percent. That's great. But you have to give us the tools to come in at two percent."

The full resolution before the addition of the paragraph regarding pensions can be found in the copy of the agenda for Tuesday's meeting attached to this report.

Check back with Patch later today for more from Tuesday's Orangetown Town Board meeting. 

Think4urself June 14, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Maureen is 100% correct in pointing out what the bloated police budget is doing to average citizens-for example, losing their homes. That's not police bashing, that's today's reality. I pay close to $1300.00 a year in taxes just for the Orangetown Police. Does the PBA want me to pay $1400.00 a year? Where does the madness end? I guess I'll have make sacrifices again in my family budget if the PBA wins arbitration. But what sacrifices are the police making? Are they endeavoring to cut, consolidate and streamline expenses or do they just rely on raising taxes. I don't think it's too much to ask in these dire economic times for the Orangetown Police to contribute to their medical care and pensions, like everyone else in the private sector. Here's a suggestion. According to "SomeCommonsense" tax money goes to police presence at parades,wakes and bike races. Is that really necessary? I believe responsible, civic minded adults could do the job just as well to defray some of the costs. Victor Hugo said "No army can stop an idea whose time has come." I believe major tax reform is that idea.
Phil June 14, 2012 at 05:21 PM
What sacrifices are the police making? When is the last time your job required you throw yourself in the middle of a bar full of drunks fighting and throwing bottles? How about performing CPR on a person not breathing? Or a 100 mph car chase? Why start with the police in looking for all these cuts? They are the only department in the entire town that work 24/7 and 365 days a year.
Think4urself June 14, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Police are paid to break up bar fights and perform CPR and they are paid well for that. So well, that Rockland County has the worst bond rating in NY State and is rated one level above junk status BTW, did you know that fishermen, loggers,pilots,roofers,trash collectors,truck drivers and miners all have more dangerous jobs than police. And, are generally paid considerably less than the police. For some reason though, I never hear those profession's whining.
somecommonsense June 14, 2012 at 10:43 PM
I have lived in Orangetown my entire life and know a good portion of the police department..... I have never heard one of them "whine" about their salaries or about the job they do. The only thing I have ever heard is how disappointed they are in the number of people who seem to hate them for no reason, constantly call them underworked and overpaid, and use them as a political football whenever there is a money crunch. Where are the nasty comments about the outrageous school taxes you pay? The screaming about government waste? Welfare fraud? Government sponsored projects in the hundreds of millions researching thoroughly useless nonsense? The politicians, greedy corporations, CEOs and Wall Street have to be having a collective laugh of immense proportions, because instead of blaming them for the economic collapse, the sheep are blaming cops, firemen, teachers and civil service. Unbelievable...
somecommonsense June 16, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Fine professions all. And do they show up to give CPR to your sick family member or de-fib someone you love having a heart attack? Do they enforce laws to keep you and your loved ones safer and improve your quality of life? What a ridiculous comparison

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