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What you need to know for 04/23/2017

Union approves small raises with city of Schenectady

Union approves small raises with city of Schenectady

One of the city’s smallest unions has agreed to small raises in a new labor contract.

One of the city’s smallest unions has agreed to small raises in a new labor contract.

The 1037A union — made up of about 118 sewer, water, trash and street maintenance workers — voted to approve a new contract, which the council is now reviewing.

In exchange for switching to the cheaper health insurance prescriptions program lauded by Schenectady County, they would get a $400 payment this year, a 1 percent raise next year, a 1.25 percent raise in 2015 and a 1.5 percent raise in 2016.

The $400 payment this year would not count toward their base pay.

City Council members have discussed the matter behind closed doors and did not discuss it publicly at Monday’s committee meeting.

In the past, the 1037A contract has indicated what other unions, including the large CSEA union, eventually accepted in their contract negotiations. No other contracts have been put up for a vote yet.

The new health insurance program preserves current benefits, but pushes employees to get their regular prescriptions from Canada.

Schenectady County officials said they saved $6 million through the program. Canadian drugs are about 40 percent cheaper than American drugs, county Attorney Chris Gardner said.

City employees could get the Canadian drugs without a copay. But if they wanted to buy a regular prescription from a local pharmacy, the copay would be much higher than it is now. The county has a $60 copay for local pharmacies and Gardner said the same “penalty copay” would be offered to city unions.

In other business, the council got its first look at the proposed Consolidated Plan, which includes the highly sought-after Community Development Block Grant.

This year, the federal government is reducing the Consolidated Plan grants yet again, to $2.8 million. Only a fraction of that — through CDBG — can go to nonprofit groups, and that is the most competitive part of the plan.

The city can give out only $296,000, and Development Director Richard Purga recommended simply funding the same agencies as last year, at the same amounts.

The vast majority of the fund, $187,000, would go to the Police Department to fund seven police officers in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

The rest would go to nonprofit groups.

Those agencies are the Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady (to run Quackenbush Pool), the Schenectady County Youth Bureau (to run Hillhurst Pool and programs at Steinmetz Park), the YWCA (to run Front Street Pool), the YMCA (to run programs at Jerry Burrell Park), SICM (to run the summer lunch program) and the Capital District Center for Independence Office of Disability Services (to help residents with housing and employment).

Likewise, in each of the divisions of the Consolidated Plan, Purga recommended funding the same programs as last year.

There is only one new program on his list: a demolition project.

The city could demolish 100 properties at once, this year, through a Housing and Urban Development loan, Purga said.

Mayor Gary McCarthy has wanted to use grant funding to secure a loan so that he could demolish many houses at once. The program would be paid back, using CDBG funds, over the course of 30 years.

Purga said demolition was the “most needed” project on the Consolidated Plan list.

“You get a major impact,” he said of the 100 demolitions. “If you ask me what’s most needed in the city … I would say it’s demolition.”

The city will accept written comments on the proposal through April 18, with a public hearing at the April 8 City Council meeting.

The council is scheduled to vote on the final plan April 22.

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