Schenectady County

Scotia police contract goes to arbitrator today

Health care benefits is one of the sticking points in the village’s contract impasse with police tha

Health care benefits is one of the sticking points in the village’s contract impasse with police that is going before an arbitrator today.

The police union has been working under the terms of a contract that expired May 31, 2009. Mayor Kris Kastberg said the village settled contracts with its fire and public works unions but didn’t get very far with police.

Scotia officials want to be able to shop around for the village’s health plan, according to Kastberg. The current police contract dictates the exact plan and riders that will be offered.

With changes coming in health care because of the federal Affordable Care Act, Kastberg said the village needs flexibility to move between plans.

“In this day and age, with the 2 percent tax cap, we’ve got to have an ability to manage the village in the most economical way possible,” he said.

The fire union agreed to take out of its contract the provision of having a set health insurance plan, Kastberg added.

The village pays for 90 percent of the cost of health insurance for employees hired before June 2006 and 85 percent for those hired after that date.

Discussions with police never got as far as talking about specific salary numbers after they were hung up on health insurance concessions, according to Kastberg. Both sides declared an impasse and started a mediation process last December. That still didn’t lead to an agreement.

Under the current contract, the starting salary for a police officer in 2009 was $36,813. Officers receive increases every year of employment, so by the sixth year, the officer is making a base salary of $61,318. Upon their fifth anniversary, officers also receive a longevity bonus of $625 and get an additional $125 for every year of service after that. If officers work the 4 p.m. to midnight shift, they receive a 1.5 percent bump in pay, and if they work midnight to 8 a.m., they get a 2.5 percent bonus.

The matter will go before a three-person panel made up of one person appointed by the village, one appointed by the union and a neutral third party who essentially will be the deciding vote. A decision is expected in four to six weeks, according to Kastberg.

New York state has binding arbitration for police unions, so whatever the arbitrator decides will be the terms of the new contract.

The mayor couldn’t remember the last time a village contract had to go to arbitration. “It’s the last thing you want to do because somebody else is deciding your future,” he said.

Both sides will be right back at the bargaining table because any decision will cover from 2009 to date, and they will have to negotiate a new deal for 2013 and beyond.

PBA President Adam Halbfinger couldn’t be reached for comment.

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