The Village of Sleepy Hollow and the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have entered into a contract agreement that will have long range benefits for the police and for Village government with regards to the development of Lighthouse Landing.
The PBA contract was the third of three successful negotiations that Mayor Zegarelli and the Board of Trustees completed, giving them a baseline of costs that the Village needs when it considers the planned growth at the GM site.
Employee salaries and benefits are the single largest cost to the Village, with 55% of the annual budget going to benefits without factoring in salaries. With 85% of the Village budget mandated by contract and existing obligations "crunching numbers" is a must. The PBA contract along with the Teamsters and Clerical Union contracts have enabled Sleepy Hollow to project costs when Lighthouse Landing comes onto the tax rolls. The waterfront development will increase the need for Village services and infrastructure and the Board is acutely aware that the Village must be on sound financial footing long before the project begins. "The Board of Trustees and I have created a situation that will infuse the school system with a net revenue flow of $1,500,000 annually and the Village of Sleepy Hollow with $630,000 yearly after all expenses have been factored in. In other words, there will be a net gain of significant monies that will help ease tax burdens on our residents."
The PBA contract is a 6-year agreement with retroactive components to it. The principle impasse in negotiations has been the Village’s position that starting in 2012 new members of the force (those joining in 2008) would begin to contribute 20% towards their healthcare benefits once they made Grade 1 (usually a 4-year process). Even though all current members of the Police Department would have been "grandfathered" in and not have to pay anything towards their healthcare, the Department balked at the provision. In withdrawing the "contribution to healthcare" provision the Village had a bargaining chip and was able to negotiate semi-annual salary increases that provide a cash savings (over the life of the contract). All pay increases, whether retroactive or current, will be administered in 1/2 steps or every six months. "When you look at any officer’s salary it’s apparent that we have saved the Village a significant amount of money," Mr. Zegarelli noted. He went on to say, "Our Police Department has become competitive with other Departments in Westchester County without hurting our Village’s financial condition. This new contract also allows us to further negotiate with GM around density, traffic and amenities at Lighthouse Landing, because we have fixed costs in place for all 3 employee unions. We know what services the Village will have to provide the developer and we have calculated what that will cost us."
The PBA contract will also include annual performance reviews for everyone on the force. The review process is a first in the Department’s history. Another first is a Drug and Alcohol Testing Program which provides for up to 40% of the Department being randomly picked for testing at anytime. This testing program was also part of the Teamsters most recent contract.
The PBA contract, along with those of the Teamsters and Clerical Union, will be payed for in part by monies set aside in the annual Village budget. The Mayor and his Board will further bolster fiscal stability through realistic negotiations with GM and Roseland Properties. "If we expect to see a net gain in revenue to both the schools and the Village we can only reduce density by so much, and the Board is well aware of that. Anyone can say, let’s have 800 units of housing at Lighthouse Landing. We’ve crunched the numbers and know that 800 units will cause a $500,000 net loss to the Village annually rather than the $630,000 net gain we want to incur. The same number (800 units) reduces revenue to the schools by $500,000 annually. With any drastic cut, many of the amenities that the developer will be providing to the Village will be taken off the bargaining table," Mr. Zegarelli said.
The art of negotiating continues and appears to be on track for an agreement between the Village and the developers. At the core is getting the best arrangement for Sleepy Hollow. Since Mayor Zegarelli was elected 8 years ago, State-mandated employee benefits (which the Village has no control over) have increased in triple digit percentages. Social Security and Medicare is up 187%, NYS Retirement 799%, Workers Compensation has increased 316%, Hospitalization 260% and Liability Insurance 227%. To offset these continual increases the Village is banking on additional revenue, and at the moment, Lighthouse Landing is seen as a significant contributor.