MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Anticipating challenges in preparing next year’s budget due to the coronavirus pandemic, town officials will offer retirement incentives to eligible police officers, which they say would save taxpayers more than half a million dollars.
Supervisor Ken Schmitt said that the Town Board has looked at the police department’s $9.8 million budget to find “creative ways to reduce spending.”
Officers with 20 years or more of service are eligible for retirement, so the Town Board engaged in discussion with police department officials to see if they would be interested in early-retirement incentives. Schmitt said the department was amenable to the idea.
Schmitt said there are currently four members of the police staff—three PBA members, plus current police Chief Mike Cazzari—who met the criteria. The town would offer them a single pretax lump sum of $50,000 (on top of their pensions and benefits) to retire by Sept. 30, which is when the 2021 supervisor’s budget must be presented.
Those retiring officers, each of whom is making well over $100,000, would be replaced by younger incoming officers who would make significantly less. Schmitt said a new hire would make about $46,000 annually, while a transfer from another police department—should the town choose such a candidate— would earn approximately $55,000 to $62,000. The new officers would also contribute significantly more to their health benefit plans, as opposed to the retiring veteran officers, which would reduce the town’s costs even more.
“The savings would be significant,” Schmitt said during the Town Board’s May 27 meeting. “The retirements would open up new positions that would cost much less money—a considerable savings.”
Town comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell has been working on the numbers and has been estimating a salary cost of $62,586 for the new hires—the high end. Should the town hire candidates who make less, it would save even more money.
Maxwell said if the plan goes through, the town will save about $56,000 for the final quarter of 2020 and about $510,000 in 2021. The plan would reduce the police budget from $9.8 million to about $9.3 million.
“We would lower the tax levy and not have to go to the taxpayers for that money,” Maxwell said. “I left everything else the same [in the police budget]—uniforms, fuel, cars—because I don’t think that will change that much.”
Maxwell said the incentive plan is just for 2021 for now, though the town could revisit the idea for the following year.
Currently, there are 36 officers on the Carmel police force. The early-retirement plan would remove three officers (not including the chief), bringing the total to 32. Then, two more officers would be hired, bringing the number to 35, which, town officials said, is the number the police department wants. A new chief would be hired as well.
“In light of the pandemic, we had to figure something out—a way to be creative,” Councilman Frank Lombardi said.
Councilman Bob Schanil called the idea a “no-brainer.”
“In the situation we are in now, it’s a smart move,” Schanil said. “Hopefully, we will find ways to cut even more.”
Deputy Supervisor Suzi McDonough said that when the board first started to discuss the police incentive, she was originally opposed to the idea of a “buyout.”
“I don’t particularly care for them,” she said. “But in this case, the numbers do not lie. Spreadsheet after spreadsheet, discussion after discussion, the savings for the Carmel taxpayers is a big number. The Town Board, comptroller and police force worked together to put this incentive forward for a little relief for our taxpayers.
“I will continue to try to find savings,” she added. “It’s getting harder and harder to stay here in our beautiful town, and I am hoping this incentive and other savings will help all the residents.”
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