Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The ratification of the County's Staff Association pay increase is finally coming to the Legislature. Not everyone is pleased about it.

Late last month, Executive Hein and the middle management union came to terms on a 13% pay raise for the rest of the year. Hein and company are looking for the Legislature to simply approve their negotiations. I'm not sure it will work out that way.

You see, The Union opted to delay increases in their pay rate during better economic times and have decided that now, in the midst of a financial crisis, that this is their moment to pounce. But there's a catch. Ulster County taxpayers cant afford another hand reaching in their pockets at a time when people are moving into cardboard huts.

Granted, this has been a long 5+ years without a raise, but my first thought is, aren't we happy to have the jobs we have? Ask someone on the unemployment line.

We know that negotiations with our union counterparts are a duty of the Executive, but wouldn't the Legislature like to be somewhat informed as the process develops? I know our Mayor Sottile has brought in a member of each party to attend several negotiations just for this purpose, you'd think Mike would follow suit.

The concept is that the employees deserve the increase and to keep up with where they should have been, had they kept step with their CSEA counterparts, they are entitled to a 13% increase starting immediately. Well members of our
caucus had some reservations as to the timing and have expressed such thoughts over the last few weeks. Grumblings actually. They may have stalled in their increases compared to those they supervise, but the disparity in pay is still significant.

Here are some points to think about:
  • First contract between Ulster County and NYSUT in 5 years.
  • Kicking off with an imaginary 0% increase for 2010
  • Includes a non-compounding salary adjustment of UCSA employees relative to their underlings.
  • The elimination of the Flex Plan. Ruled improper practice by PERB.
  • It reduces the amount of sick/vaca time buybacks from 30 days to 15.
  • Increases the Insurance contribution to 10% current and 15% future employees.
  • New Hires will have to contribute 50% toward their retirement coverage.
All said, it sounds like a worthy deal, if our coffers were solvent. But they're not. What some of us are advocating is to take this proposal and set it to activate starting January 1st of 2011 rather than during this year. The funds are depleted and the thought of raiding what's left of the fund balance reserves and contingency account at this date make the Legislature very uncomfortable.

Noted in an older edition of the Freeman: As part of the deal, the union agreed to withdraw an improper practice proceeding it had brought against the county after the county eliminated the flex plan. Bartholomew said the union claimed in its filing that because the two sides were in negotiations the county couldn’t arbitrarily eliminate that benefit.

Our retreat from the Flex Plan at this stage is pretty much an admission of wrong doing at this point. Hopefully the issue is put to rest and we can stop spending tax dollars to fight such cases. But having the whole proposal set to engage at the start of 2011 makes the most sense. This would allow the Exec and Legislature time to find the funds properly while insuring the employees that we are making things right as we head into the new year.

What troubles me most is the acknowledgement that we are starting out with a $12 million deficit heading into 2011 if we do nothing. The Legislature, Executive and our employees have to look at the longer road here. Where will we find the money?

You can expect to hear much more from all the county leadership members in weeks to come. This and future contracts will be looked at very closely. But if this resolution for ratification comes to the floor without a 2011 start date, I'm thinking NO.


Anonymous said...

We the taxpayers cannot aford this contract it must be voted down.

Anonymous said...

Why would Hein ask the dumb legislators when he has a staff of know it alls? Adele, Marshall, Bea, all of them, let them deal with this problem.

Hein's crappy budget and budget proposals are his problem. Let him figure out how to fix it.

Pass everything he gives you instead of bailing him out.