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."