Officers with the Sag Harbor Police Department have been working without a contract for over a year now.
And it appears likely that is not going to change any time soon.
After fruitless mediation talks were held between the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Village of Sag Harbor on June 26, this week PBA president Patrick Milazzo said the association has filed for arbitration — a binding contract negotiation handled by a third party.
At the same time, at the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night, trustee Tim Culver said it was time for the village to lay all of its options on the table and reach out to both East Hampton and Southampton towns to see what the cost would be for their police departments to service Sag Harbor Village.
“We are in a unique position,” said Culver. “This is not a comment on the quality of the police department, but a question of dollars and cents and if an arbiter comes back with a number we cannot afford, we cannot afford it.”
“It’s the single largest line item in the budget,” added Culver. “They do a great job. The question is, can we afford it?”
Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride noted a state mandated two-percent cap on any increases to the property tax levy binds the village in terms of what it is able to spend.
“We don’t have any wiggle room,” he said.
“I think it is a great idea,” said Milazzo on Wednesday morning. “I think the village should absolutely look into what the cost is to provide police services. They will have to consider what they will be getting in terms of service, but this is a suggestion I made months ago.”
Milazzo said without a significant reduction in the kind of police services currently offered, he doubted the village could find a more affordable police force, noting Sag Harbor Village operates one of the most cost effective village police departments on the East End.
“So how they will be able to achieve cost savings with a more expensive labor pool, I don’t know, unless they are willing to reduce services,” said Milazzo. “How you would police one municipality with two police departments is another thing I am not sure of.”
Milazzo said the Sag Harbor PBA originally asked for a contract that included a 4.5-percent increase — similar to the raise they were given in 2006.
“It was an aggressive proposal,” said Milazzo, noting it was a wage increase presented by the PBA’s attorney and not one he came up with on his own. “No one is expecting a 4.5-percent wage increase.”
Milazzo said ultimately the increase the department hopes for will largely be based on other terms of the contract including requests for increases in sick days, a death benefit clause and how much officers in the future will be asked to pay into their health care benefits.
At the mediation table, the village offered a zero percent increase in wages for 2011, a one-percent increase for 2012 and a two-percent increase for 2013. New officers would be required to pay 25-percent of their medical insurance costs and current officers would be required to pay half of any increase in premium prices for insurance.
The PBA did not accept the offer.
According to Milazzo, it could likely be January 2013 before the PBA and the village formally meets with the arbiter for the first time. Once a contract is worked out, he noted, the PBA and the village will be right back at the negotiation table looking at the next police contract.