Despite a $12 million hole in the city’s budget, Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings agreed to a tentative contract giving the police officers an 8 percent raise over two years–while keeping Albany taxpayers in the dark about the deal for three weeks.

The public first learned bits and pieces of the September 17 pact in an October 8 newspaper story, including that the Albany Police Officers Union had already ratified it.

Why the secrecy? The agreement should have been posted on Albany’s web page on along with details of its fiscal impact, as recommended by the Empire Center report, Lifting the Shroud of Secrecy from Public Employee Contracts (here).

Details of the September 17 pact–approved by Albany Police Officers Union in late September–are murky. The Common Council, which next meets October 19, must ratify it.

The Albany Times Union broke news of the tentative agreement, a week after Jennings, who is seeking re-election, proposed his 2010 budget.

According to the paper, police would get retroactive 4 percent pay raises for 2008 and for 2009. The raises match those granted to other city unions.

And in a union concession city officials say they hope will reap future savings, the amount of compensatory time officers can bank and cash in at retirement is cut in half. The federal standard of 480 hours would be reduced to 240 hours if the Common Council approves the contract later this month.

Both sides agreed to continue negotiations over automatic drug and alcohol testing after police are involved in “significant incidents,” such as shootings or car crashes.

The paper, not citing a source, says the tentative agreement will cost the city $1.6 million, including retroactive overtime, and “won’t affect Jennings proposed 2010 budget.”

Really? Of course, it affects the city budget. It raises base salaries by 8 percent.

Perhaps that’s one reason Jennings wants to dip into $5.2 million in reserve funds to balance his proposed $163 million budget.

Among 10 cities in the Capital District, Albany ranks number one in the average pay of its police and firefighters, who made an average of $78,507 in the 12-month period ending March 31, 2009, according to an Empire Center analysis of municipal salaries posted on www.seethroughny.net.

The report Lifting the Shroud of Secrecy from Public Employee Contracts says advance disclosure of tentative contracts should include details of the annualized and cumulative costs, a breakdown of savings attributed to union concessions or “givebacks” and the projected impact on taxes.

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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