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April 6, 2009 - 11:10am

City of Batavia could face big bill soon if arbitrator rules in favor of police union

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, police, union.

Is the City of Batavia ready to pony up $288,000 in back pay to Batavia's police officers?

That could be the price tag on an expected arbitrator's ruling this summer.

Or the amount of back pay could be zero, or somewhere in between. Nobody really knows at this point.

In an e-mail request for comment, City Manager Jason Molino said, "Yes the arbitration decision will most likely come out this summer or fall.  There is no way of determining what the settlement may be.  This makes budgeting extremely difficult and no money has been budgeted for retroactive payments.  Any substantial retroactive payment would severely set back the City's attempt to minimize future costs."

Molino addressed the back pay issue earlier this year in his annual budget message, when he said that no money had been budgeted to cover retroactive pay.

Other city unions have given at least one year of zero-percent adjustments over the past four fiscal years (including 2009-2010), with other annual increases ranging from 1.5 percent to 2.85 percent.

If the the arbitrator finds in favor of the police union, the city could be on the hook for five years of back pay. It could be less, and it may not be as high as 3 percent.

But if the officers are awarded a 3-percent increase, it would be compounded for two years. That second-year rate would also apply to any additional annual pay increases for three years.

Frank Klimjack, president of the Batavia Police Benevolent Association, e-mailed us this explanation:

As per the Taylor law, an arbitrator can only impose an award for two years, therefore, that would only get the contract situation to an expiration date of March 31st, 2007.  Whatever award is imposed, a ?% for March 1st, 2005 and ?% for April 1st, 2006 would be granted to the PBA membership. Then you would have to readjust the amount of earnings beginning April 1st, 2005 through the present day 2009 based upon those percentages to determine back pay due the PBA membership. Then it's back to the negotiating table.

That's a big question mark in Klimjack's statement -- we don't know if it is 1 percent, 2 percent or 3 percent or more.  If the arbitrator imposes a rate as high as 4 percent, and five years of back pay, the total would be $317,800.  Two percent would be $258,000.

The BPA has been without a contract, and its members have not received a raise since 2005. Batavia police officers earn from $32,942 to $48,406 (most officers make $48,406), with detectives earning $53,164, sergeants $55,552 and lieutenants $63,775.  Two years of consecutive 3-percent raises for police officers earning $48,406 would bring their annual salaries to $51,354.

By comparison, the starting pay for a Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy is $47,798, and a typical deputy with three years on the force is earning about $52,832, according to Sheriff Gary Maha.

Unsure if the Batavia officers could really get a full five-years worth of back pay, I asked Klimjack to clarify and he replied: "Five years of back pay is correct.  Then beginning April 1st, 2007 through the present is negotiable."

I take that to mean that any additional annual increases from 2007 would be negotiable.  While, a total of five years of back pay for PBA members could still be award at whatever rate the arbitrator sets, per the Taylor law for the covered two years.

For a cash-strapped city, six-figures in back pay is a significant chunk of change. Asked where that money would come from, City Council President Charlie Mallow said, "I’m going to wait for the arbitration to be completed before I speculate on what steps the city will need to take to lesson the impact on our future tax burden. It is clear to me that it would be impossible to pass on a substantial tax increase to city residents at this point. I am confident Council as a whole will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure a stable tax rate."

You may remember that earlier this year the city decided to use $425,000 in Video Lottery Terminal to help land $4.5 million in Federal stimulus funds. Could that money have been better spent on police officer back pay?

"VLT aid was one-time revenues," Molino said. "Funding operational annual expenses with one time revenues would leave the City with significant shortfalls once the revenue stops."

Karen Miconi
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Isn't anyone interested in seeing the New Quotes for Ambulance service at the end of the month?? I can't wait to compare them with what the taxpayer "was" paying before the Batavia City Ambulance was axed. Only then will I support this change. Will we be paying more, or less for the service. I hope the public is allowed to view these new bids, and have a say in how our hard earned money is being spent.
Beth Kinsley
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It was my understanding that the taxpayers aren't going to be paying anything for this service unless of course we have to use it. Wasn't that the whole point?
Karen Miconi
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I dont know, or understand the politics of it all. I'm just concerned for the safety of the people in our fine city, and how our money is being spent. The $$$ are coming from somewhere.
Beth Kinsley
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The users of the service would be responsible for paying for it. Presumably their health insurance (or auto insurance in the case of a motor vehicle accident) company would be billed if they have insurance. If not, I'm assuming the individual who used the service would be responsible for the bill. I was in a car accident in Rochester and Rural Metro brought me to the hospital. They sent me a bill and requested insurance information which I provided to them. That was the end of it.
Karen Miconi
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Isn't there a Copay for the service? I feel sorry for the Uninsured.
Karen Miconi
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Where will the new ambulances be housed while waiting for calls? I hope close.
Beth Kinsley
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That would depend on the insurance coverage that you have. The trend seems to be higher copays to keep the premium costs down so I would think that copays are a definite possibility. As far as the uninsured go - I remember looking at the bill and thinking that it was excessive and if it is anything like prescription costs, the uninsured pay more because the insurance companies negotiate their prices with the provider. Even when the city had the service they billed the uninsured but it is my understanding that they weren't very successful at getting most of it. I don't know if they know yet where the ambulances will be kept. I guess that will be in the proposals. I think I heard something about the hospital saying that they could keep them there.
Karen Miconi
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Is there a Cap on emergency ambulance services? How much can they charge for a local call. I know when the city transported my daughter to ECMC the bill from the city was around $2000. I would have drivin her myself for $20 had I have known. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens here.
Beth Kinsley
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I'm assuming that will be the kind of information they'll be looking for when they review the proposals. $2,000!!!! That's crazy.
Karen Miconi
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Oh Yah, you should have seen the hospital bills. Almost 30 grand for 1 week in ECMC. Thank GOD we have BCBS. Anyone in for a mountain climb on the treadmill?? I'll be @ the gym {The old powerhouse}. Come on down and releive some stress with me, if your not working this afternoon. $25 a month, its a great deal!! Batavia's Big Brother, Tony Faletti is the trainer. He's wonderful! HAVE A GREAT DAY YALL
Beth Kinsley
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I saw some flyers for them on the counter at Main Street Pizza. Nothing like making me feel guilty as I'm picking up my pizza:)
Karen Miconi
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No Pizza Beth!! Salad. The snack wraps from Timmy Hoes are perfect size and delicious too.
Beth Kinsley
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My kids would kill me if I came home with salad instead of pizza from Main Street Pizza. You've got to admit - they have some damn good pizza.

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