SCHENECTADY — A new union contract and an additional minute for residents to comment during public hearings were approved during Monday’s City Council committee meetings.
Council members unanimously approved the approximately $270,000 contract for 2017 through 2019 for city employees in the building, finance and law departments and their supervisors during its Finance Committee meeting. It includes a 2 percent raise for each of the three years of the contract, including a retroactive raise for 2017.
City Finance Department Commissioner Anthony Ferrari said they will have to come back to the council to ask for an amendment to the 2017 budget to cover the approximately $75,000 to $80,000 in retroactive pay raises for employees, if the City Council approves the contract next week.
Ferrari also said the contract increases the boot allowance for employees from $125 to $200, and would increase employee longevity pay by $100.
Ferrari told council members the city worked with Civil Service Employees Association Inc., Local 1000, which covers 82 city employees, on the contract during 2017.
The previous contract began Jan. 1, 2012 and ended Dec. 31, 2016.
Council members will vote on whether to finalize the contract during their regular meeting on Feb. 12.
“The city has great workers,” Ferrari said. “It’s a well-deserved raise.”
The council previously approved a $600,000 contract for 126 city employees on Jan. 22. The contract, which covers departments such as Water, Parks and Wastewater employees, included 2 percent raises over a four-year period of 2017-2020, including a retroactive raise for 2017.
It also included an extra $2 an hour for the months of December through March for Waste Department employees for working in the cold.
Council members also unanimously voted to extend public comment for each speaker during public hearings from 3 minutes to 4 minutes. It would be done on a trial basis until the end of May so it can include public comment on Community Development Block Grant appropriations in April.
The topic was brought up by independent Councilman Vince Riggi during the Government Operations Committee on Monday. He suggested extending the speaking time to 5 minutes.
Riggi said he felt there were times where speakers were discussing important issues, but were limited by time.
“I want to try it as a pilot and see how it works,” Riggi said.
Most were receptive to extending the time to five minutes, but Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas was concerned longer speaking times could discourage other people who wanted to speak during a public hearing.
Councilman John Polimeni suggested 4 minutes as a compromise, which council members all agreed on.
City Council President Ed Kosiur said he will only cut people off if they don’t stay on topic.
“It’s a good opportunity to hear from our residents,” Kosiur said of the public comment period.
The new rule will go into effect during the Feb. 12 general meeting, where there will be two public hearings.
Kosiur said the public will still be able to reach council members by phone or email to discuss their opinions. He also suggested they come to their Coffee with the Council events.
Those will occur every second Sunday of the month, beginning this Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. It will take place at the Schenectady Greenmarket, which is located inside Proctors. Kosiur said they will set up near the theater’s box office. He said they plan to partner with a local coffee vendor at the market to buy constituents who come a cup of coffee.
Kosiur said they will continue to host the event inside even when the market goes outdoors.
“It’s a good way to meet our constituents,” Kosiur said.