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Report the whole story on why police, fire salaries so high

Sunday, February 24, 2013
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Report the whole story on why police, fire salaries so high

[Regarding] protective services pay: Once again the Gazette has run a series of stories about who earns the most money in various jurisdictions [Feb. 12 and 13 Gazette]. Usually it highlights police officers and detectives, and at least implies that this is not appropriate. And with many families in the Capital Region eking out a far lower income living, I cannot help but feel that such articles are intended to be inflammatory, particularly since they never tell the whole story.

It takes two years to have a well-trained police officer on the street: six months at the training academy, and significant riding-along and on-the job training time. This is a big expense to cash-strapped municipalities. But the time it takes is a fundamental reason why I ask the leaders in my home town, Niskayuna, to start hiring two officers per year. Half our force in Niskayuna, which is down from when I was town justice, could retire yesterday. We need to prepare.

But let’s get down to brass tacks. The first time the city of Schenectady “costed out” contracts — determined the expense of each employee, including retirement contribution by the city, vacation time, sick leave, health insurance and other benefits — was at my request in 1980 when I was thrown into labor negotiations.

At that time a Schenectady police officer averaged 93 percent in benefits above his or her base pay, clerical workers about 27 percent and, if memory serves me correctly, laborers about 18 percent.

Now local government executives and legislatures must apply a cost-benefit analysis. These leaders must balance their budgets. So when the Gazette finds that certain employees earn almost as much as their base pay by working overtime — and it is clear that these people are working and earning that overtime — what the Gazette is also saying is that the municipality budgeted for overtime instead of hiring additional officers.

Now we cannot predict emergencies, and there will always be an overtime component in the protective services, police and fire, but it appears that the municipalities reported upon by the Gazette have determined that it is less expensive to pay the overtime than to add to the police force. Please tell the whole story.

Bruce S. Trachtenberg

Niskayuna

Olympics need wrestling to keep amateur tradition

Re Feb. 15 letter, “Wrestling needs to be part of the Olympics”: I strongly agree with Heather Buckland that wrestling “needs to be in the Olympics in 2020, and not only to preserve “traditional and honor” but also to maintain amateurism in the game.

When I left college to train for the Olympics in 1976, the Olympics was primarily an amateur event. There was no “Dream Team” made up of millionaire basketball players as in 1992. Professional baseball players were not officially in the Olympic picture yet, either. The athletes I knew then not only struggled while training at their sport, they struggled to finance their training.

I worked in a service station on the Stanford University campus with another Olympic hopeful in 1976, and I drove to Boston University in 1984 with a struggling Olympic prospect, who sought training finances from alumni at his alma mater.

Only one of seven sports will be reinstated by the International Olympic Committee [IOC] and the choice will likely boil down to a decision between wresting and baseball. Baseball is “America’s pastime” but wrestling is more global in nature.

While I understand the need to make money and that baseball fills stadiums in the United States, the IOC should recognize the importance of the tradition of amateurism in the Olympics and reinstate wrestling over baseball. This would be consistent with the original intent, philosophy and spirit of the Olympic games — a celebration of the amateur athlete.

Hal D. Zendle

Niskayuna

Sch’dy assessor erred regarding STAR rules

Many years ago, a Schenectady property owner decided to change the wording on the deed so that if anything happened to her, the son or daughter would automatically be the owner of the property. She was then listed as having a “life estate” on the property with her child, who lives with her, on the deed as “remainderman.” She continued to received the “Enhanced STAR” she was entitled to until this year.

When she went to submit her STAR application for this year, she was told that she now needed to report her child’s income and it would be considered when deciding whether she would be “Basic” or “Enhanced.” The assessor told her that this was because the son or daughter lives in the house with her (but she pays all the bills). She ended up getting “Basic.” At this point, I became involved because I know that other towns and cities were doing this differently and in New York state we should all be the same.

After many phone calls back and forth, with the assessor’s office insisting that they are correct (and the city attorney looking it over and agreeing with her), I went online and discovered that the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has the exact question and answer as a remedy to this ongoing dispute, with just a gender change from male “life estate” (father) to female “life estate” (mother).

As the son or daughter is considered the remainderman who will inherit the property upon the death of the life tenant, “the life tenant is considered the owner for purposes of the exemption” and the remainderman’s income is not considered.

I asked the city assessor to verify and correct this error on my friend’s bill, and it has been corrected, with her getting the “Enhanced” STAR back. I then asked the assessor if she is going to notify and correct all the others whose STAR exemptions/bills were changed this year due to her inaccurate interpretation of the law, but she told me she would only change those who complained and no one else had complained.

You obviously won’t complain unless you discover (through this letter) that New York state has already made a ruling on this and all those who were forced by Schenectady to include the remainderman’s income should immediately notify the assessor’s office in writing that they want this correction made and their school tax bill reissued.

Delores Inzero

Schenectady

Plan Committee not truly representative of Saratoga

As a lifelong resident of Saratoga Springs, I am very proud of the city it has become. With its parks, world-famous springs, thoroughbred track, vibrant downtown and diverse neighborhoods, it is an ideal place to live and raise a family.

The continued growth and development of our city is guided by the Comprehensive Plan, which articulates the city’s goals for such things as land use, design and enhancement of our community. The Comprehensive Plan Committee should, therefore, consist of individuals whose primary concerns are consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan.

It is unfortunate that Mayor Scott Johnson has selected a committee which does not represent the diversity of our city and which fails to include representatives from all of our communities. While the individuals set forth on the mayor’s list are undoubtedly fine individuals, some do not even live in Saratoga Springs and should not be included on the committee if it is at the exclusion of qualified Saratogians.

I am hopeful that the mayor will look to the other elected officials on the City Council and, in a bipartisan way, select a committee that truly represents the residents of our great city.

Courtney DeLeonardis

Saratoga Springs

President is master of the bait and switch

Sequestration, another Obama bait and switch. The ignorance of the American people is something this administration has always counted on. The skillful use of the mainstream media (how much skill is really required) to imply sequestration is yet another Republican abomination is both laughable and pathetic.

This president proposed it and gave a speech stating if they tried to change it, he would veto it. Now it’s unacceptable and it’s up to the Republicans to acquiesce and raise taxes.

This president has the good fortune to be able to say anything at anytime. Tell you one thing on Monday and then the complete opposite on Friday. He has had an adoring media help promote his “balanced approach” hyperbole. The media has never asked him to outline his cuts. Why? Because there are none. He will never “cut” anything. At best he’ll reduce an increase. In exchange all he wants is more tax dollars that will be used to buy more and more votes.

There will never be any domestic spending cuts under this president, a master of the bait and switch.

Dave Dankanich

Rexford

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