Mount Kisco's Police Benevolent Association came up short in findings from an arbitration award due to lack of a contract with the village.
The award, signed May 14, covers June 1, 2007 to June 30, 2009. No contract has been in place since May 31, 2007, and the matter has been in arbitration since 2009, including hearings and disputes over "Improper Practice Charges," with each side arguing that the other was making requests that were not proper.
Under the wage terms granted for police with four or more years at work, the salary increases are: 3.75 percent from June 1, 2007 to May 31, 2008; 2.5 percent from June 1, 2008 to Nov. 30, 2008; 2 percent from Dec. 1, 2008 to May 31, 2009. Police employeed less than four years get the following: 2-percent increase for June 1, 2007 to Nov. 30, 2007; 1.85 percent for Dec. 1, 2007 to May 31, 2008; freeze from June 1, 2008 to Nov. 30, 2008, and for Dec. 1, 2008 to May 31, 2009.
The PBA, in contrast, wanted a 4.75-percent increase for each year, along with increases in the differentials for dectectives (to 10 percent), sergeants (to 15 percent) and lieutenants (to 15 percent). The arbitration denied each request.
The village, however, wanted a 2.5-percent wage increase for each year, and argued that the PBA's request was not appropriate given the bad economy. It also argued that police salaries (ranging from $70,000 to $120,000) are more than what many Mount Kisco taxpayers make.
Ability to pay was a major issue of dispute, particularly what is defined to be comparable municipalities in Westchester County. The PBA argued that towns geographically contiguous or nearby, such as New Castle, Bedford, North Castle and Yorktown, should be used as the basis. The village, however, argued that other villages in the county, such as Sleepy Hollow, Port Chester and Ossining, have been used before for the basis and should be used again.
The arbitration sided with the village in this matter.
"The Union's arguments to deviate from the comparable communities employed in a prior interest arbitration and the more recent Village fact-finding are not convincing," the statement read. "Whereas, the Village's submission on geographic size, population and basic economic indices are supportive of prior rulings of compatibility, Therefore, this Panel will give due consideration to the data submitted for the same comparable communities as used prior hereto."
The village's argument is that taxes should not be raised too high to pay the contract, simply because it has the legal ability to do so.
"Common sense suggests that a Village could not and should not tax its citizens to the highest legal limit," according to the village's argument placed in the decision documents. "Thus, the issue of 'ability to pay' must be governed by what Village can reasonably afford given its constituency, economic status, State aid and the need to expend monies in order to provide other services to maintain a stable municipal infrastructure.""
The PBA argues that Mount Kisco police are underpaid, relative to other departments in Westchester (an average of $77,035 for 2006 for those with five or more years serving, versus $77,789 for the average of other towns and a countywide average of $79,947). The village's response was that police have higher longevity pay than most other municipalities, and that they work fewer total hours (the second-lowest among Westchester's 22 villages).
The arbitration, in a section called "Discussion," sympathized more with the village, noting the economic downturn and the fact that other communities are pushing for austerity for their employees.
The arbitrator sided with the village on overtime, denying the PBA's request to have optional compensatory time increased from a maximum of 48 hours to 120. The PBA, according to the arbitration summary, "stated that police officers needed and wanted time away from the hazards and stresses of their profession as well as time with their families and so its proposal is reasonable."
The village also wanted to calucate overtime based on "hours actually worked," rather than a 3-year minimum pay guarantee that the PBA backs.
On the issue of health insurance - the village wanted a 25-percent contribution rate, which the PBA opposed - the arbitrator granted a 15-percent rate.
The arbitrator opted to keep in place current terms for paid sick leave, death benefit and longevity step increases. It also denied a village request to truncate the grievance period from 30 days to 20 to allow for such a filing.
John Grant, an attorney for the PBA, blasted the findings in a July 13 rebuttal letter.
He argued that the last time arbitration was used, comparable pay was based on both the villages and towns cited by each side for comparable measures.
Grant also argues that the village's finances, between 2008 to 2012, are improving, and thus help in ability to pay. He cites growth in fund balances, nearly flat property tax increases, higher revenue from sales taxes and low unemployment in Mount Kisco relative to the rest of Westchester County.
"There is not only a high degree of inaccuracy in the Chair's analysis, but it reeks of a level of intellectual dishonesty that has been employed to make the Award appear justified," Grant wrote.
Grant also argued that the village's assertion of police officers working shorter hours compared to other Westchester communities is false. He also had choice words for the health insurance decision.
"The Chair's decision in this particular area is the most offensive and indefensible part of the Award," he wrote. Grant also argued that insurance costs for the village have not risen much, at an average of 3 percent between 2007-11.
Asked for comment, Mayor Michael Cindrich said that the award is “a very difficult situation for both the, the PBA and for the village.”
Cindrich also noted the down economy.
“We’re in a difficult situation, let’s put it that way," he said.
The award does not cover June 1, 2009 to the present, which is still open.
The cost of the police department has spilled over, beyond negotiations. There is a pending study
A copy of the arbitration decision, plus Grant's rebuttal, is attached here as a PDF file. It is from the state's website that lists arbitration awards.