Schenectady County

Confusion over Schenectady police pensions

When city police officers watch over St. Anthony’s Festa or close streets for a road race, they’re t

When city police officers watch over St. Anthony’s Festa or close streets for a road race, they’re technically not on the clock.

They’re getting paid by the city, but the city is being reimbursed by the private entity that requested officers for security.

Thus, that money should not count toward their income for pension purposes, the state says.

The ruling came as news to Schenectady payroll workers, who have always reported that income as part of each officer’s overtime earnings. That means it counted toward their pensions.

The state bases each officer’s pension on his or her income, including overtime. While a few hundred dollars from one road race is unlikely to make much of a difference, some officers can rack up much more by volunteering for many overtime jobs in their final years of work. Only the last three years of income are used to make the final pension calculation.

City Finance Commissioner Deb DeGenova said the city always intended to follow the state’s pension rules. The city didn’t know that some overtime didn’t count toward pensions, she said. Payroll employees have now asked the state for an official ruling on the topic, she added.

“If we receive a guidance from the comptroller to report a piece of a salary in a particular way, we would certainly follow that,” DeGenova said.

State officials said the rule was clear-cut.

“Private duty OT work is not pensionable,” said Nikki Jones, deputy press secretary for the state comptroller’s office.

But city Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said he’d never heard that. “Where is this memo?” he asked. “And how come, when the state sends auditors, they don’t write it up? Something is amiss.”

Schenectady was audited by the state in 2012 and the issue wasn’t mentioned in the final report.

Bennett said the city is regularly reimbursed for police patrols during the Stockade-athon, church festas and other events.

“Anybody that requests police presence, over and beyond what we would provide, does have to reimburse the salary and benefits,” he said.

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