MAHOPAC, N.Y.— The Carmel Town Board and the police union (Police Benevolent Association) have come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will extend the contract for police officers, sergeants and detectives through 2021.
The police had been working without a contract for several years, which led to an arbitration hearing two years ago when they subsequently inked a new contract for 2013 and 2014. Since then, the two parties have been negotiating another deal to bring the contract up to date.
The new agreement, which was approved by the Town Board at its Feb. 23 meeting, covers the years 2015 and 2016, which will include retroactive pay raises for those two years and then extends the contract five more years through 2021.
The contract calls for 2.25 percent annual raises for 2015 through 2018. For 2019 through 2021, the annual pay hike is 2 percent.
Deputy Supervisor Frank Lombardi, who helped negotiate the contract along with Councilman John Lupinacci, said the raises were in line with the ones they gave to the Teamsters (highway department workers) and the CSEA in their recent contract negotiations.
The new agreement will also require the PBA to kick in for health insurance costs—something they’ve never had to do until the arbitration hearing in 2015. The deal calls for new hires and those with one year of service to contribute 12 percent to their health benefits; after two years, that contribution jumps to 14 percent; after year three, it’s 16 percent; in year four it becomes 18 percent, and after the fifth year it tops out at 20 percent.
“The cost of health insurance keeps going up and everyone has to contribute,” Lombardi said. “That was, for the most part, the sticking point why we had to have arbitration [in the earlier contracts]. But we tried to make it fair for the new officers who have a lower salary and we didn’t want to hit them over the head right away with bigger contributions, so we came up with something both sides think is fair and reasonable.”
The CBA also calls for a mortgage tax revenue wage supplement in addition to the negotiated pay raises. The supplement becomes effective April 2019 (and is based on 2018 mortgage tax revenue results) and lasts for the length of the agreement. If the town experiences a $200,000 increase from the year’s mortgage tax revenue “benchmark,” employees will receive a 0.25 percent salary increase to their base rate of pay, which becomes effective their first full payroll period following April 15 of the following year.
“The whole idea is when the town does really well, the police, who are protecting our town, would also benefit,” Lombardi said.
The contract also calls for both parties to meet to negotiate and implement a drug and alcohol testing policy and procedure for all officers covered under the CBA. It’s something they’ve never had to do before.
“That (drug testing) is usually dealt with on the secondary level and both parties felt it belonged in the contract that we get together down the road and get it done,” Lupinacci said.
Lombardi said he hopes the new CBA will put to end the rumors that the Town Board wants to dismantle the police department.
“We were trying to build off the prior contract from the arbitration ruling,” Lombardi said. “We wanted to move past that and continue so the police are confident that the department will continue to exist and they will continue to have jobs protecting the community.”
Lombardi said that while they didn’t agree on everything, both sides put in a lot of work and negotiated in good faith.
“It’s a fair contract and we were happy with the way it turned out,” he said. “The [negotiators from the PBA] were all stand-up honest gentlemen and we met many, many times. I can’t tell you how many hours we spent on this along with the PBA reps, sometimes at night and on Saturdays.”
Lupinacci added that the agreement was beneficial to the town for both the short term and long term.
“For the short term, it’s within the economic climate of the town,” he said. “For the long-term, it’s good because we added an extra salary step to top pay for any new hires who will also continue to contribute to the healthcare after they retire.”
Michael Sheil, president of the PBA, said the union was pleased that the Town Board approved the contract.
“The Carmel PBA negotiators worked tirelessly, along with the town’s negotiators, to come up with a fair deal for our members, as well as for the taxpayers,” he said. “Throughout this process, we negotiated in good faith, and both sides were willing to collaborate, compromise and ultimately able to reach a fair and equitable agreement. The Carmel PBA is happy to have secured a long-term contract agreement for all of its members and is pleased to move forward.”
Town officials said that now that the CBA is completed, there is still one matter that needs to be dealt with. The union filed a grievance with the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) late last year after the town brought in the Sheriff’s Department to patrol a sector of the municipality. The town said it was part of an effort to increase police coverage without straining the Carmel PD’s resources, but the PBA opposed the move. The decision on the grievance is still pending.