In a major victory for taxpayers, New York State’s highest court has ruled unanimously that Buffalo teachers are not entitled to catch-up longevity pay step increases for the 38 months when their wages were frozen by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority.
The ruling will save the city $100 million, the Buffalo News reported. It also has immediate implications for Nassau County, where another state control board has just ordered a similar wage freeze. The Buffalo Teachers Federation reportedly will attempt to appeal the case in federal court on “contact impairment” grounds — but that route hasn’t worked out too well for the union in the past.
As argued in a legal analysis released by the Empire Center last year, under a line of court decisions relating to the power of state financial control boards for troubled municipalities, the state Legislature has the authority to statutorily freeze wages in mid-contract for all state and local employees, pursuant to a finding that a freeze is necessary under current fiscal conditions. State Sen. John Flanagan last year introduced a bill that would have imposed a one-year freeze on teacher salaries statewide, a move that would have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars– while also savings thousands of teaching jobs endangered by state aid cuts. The state Conference of Mayors has also called on the Governor and Legislature to temporarily freeze wages for local government workers.
Gov. Cuomo, however, has not exploited this opportunity. In fact, even while claiming he wants to freeze that pay of state workers for at least one year, Cuomo has budgeted $140 million for their step increases.
Memo to Legislative Correspondents Association: will someone please ask the Governor what he thinks of the Buffalo decision?