Riverhead PBA agrees to lag payroll

Riverhead’s Police Benevolent Association, the union representing 70 town police officers and detectives, has agreed to a lag payroll that eliminates about $230,000 from the town’s proposed 2011 budget.

Supervisor Sean Walter asked all town bargaining units to agree to a pay cut or a lag payroll, in which employees defer a portion of their salary until retirement.

The PBA agreed to accept pay for 78.4 hours of an 80-hour pay period, with the remainder due when they retire, according to PBA president Dixon Palmer.

The Superior Officers Association, which represents the 12 police sergeants or lieutenants, also has been asked to vote on a lag payroll. The results of that vote are not yet known.

The town’s $49.9 million tentative budget calls for a 4.3 percent town tax rate hike and a 1.5 percent spending reduction.

Curtailing police overtime will be another key to the success of the 2011 budget. Mr. Walter’s budget calls for $600,000 in police overtime in 2011. Since 2003, the town’s actual expenditures for police overtime have never been lower than $720,000.

Mr. Walter acknowledged that it will be difficult to keep these costs down, and said in a recent interview that he’s considering appointing an “overtime czar” in the police department.

Mr. Palmer said it’s difficult to reduce police overtime costs because officers often can’t leave when their shift is over if they are investigating certain kinds of cases.

The Civil Service Employees Association, which represents most non-police employees of the town, has refused to take either a pay cut or a lag payroll, and as a result, Mr. Walter has proposed cutting six full time CSEA positions and seven part-timers in his budget.

The Town Board last Thursday discussed the possibility of restoring several of those full-time positions, with the full-time fire marshal position sparking in the most debate. Mr. Walter proposed cutting one of the town’s three full-time fire marshals.

At the Oct. 19 Town Board meeting, volunteer firefighters packed the meeting, demanding the Town Board restore the fire marshal position held by Craig Zitek. They said cutting back on inspections puts firefighters in harm’s way when they enter an unsafe building to fight a fire.

Assistant town engineer Kerri Fetten tried to convince the board to restore Mr. Zitek’s position last Thursday. She said there are new state regulations requiring additional inspections and that Mr. Zitek had been responsible for 207 inspections this year. The town will not meet the $80,000 projected for inspection fee revenues in Mr. Walter’s budget without the third fire marshal, Ms. Fetten said.

Councilman Jim Wooten was most vocal against eliminating the fire marshal position. He also said he opposed eliminating one of the two animal control officers, as Mr. Walter has proposed.

“When it comes to public safety, I think there’s other ways we can cut,” Mr. Wooten said.

Councilman John Dunleavy at one point said he opposed cutting any positions in the budget.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the fees the town charges for inspections are much lower than what other towns charge, and she suggested raising them.

“We can’t just say we’re going to increase fees,” Mr. Walter said.

The supervisor said Suffolk County will do inspections for all of the schools within the town, relieving the town of having to have its fire marshals do those inspections.

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This post was originally published Oct. 25