By Kathryn G. Menu
A retirement incentive program designed by the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees this fall was not entertained by a single member of the department, according to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.
However, while the village has spent the better part of a year discussing a reduction of the police force for budgetary reasons, at a special village board meeting last week, Gilbride said with the retirement of officer Michael Gigante and other staffing developments, the village will likely hold-off on any layoffs in the near future.
According to Gilbride, besides the loss of Gigante — who left the department in the midst of a contentious re-negotiation of the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association’s contract with the village — another officer in the 12 member department has been out on sick leave for three months. A third officer, he added, has also requested a leave of absence from the department.
Until the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees has a clear picture of what the police force will look like in 2013, Gilbride said he was reluctant to make any firm decisions about reductions in staffing.
“No one accepted the early retirement incentive,” he added at the village board meeting on Friday, December 28. “So that is pretty much a non-issue now.”
In October, the village board adopted a resolution offering officers an incentive to retire from the department.
According to a memorandum outlining the incentive program, Chief Fabiano and all full-time, active members of the department who are currently eligible to retire, or have completed 10 or more years of service in the New York State Police and Firefighters Retirement System as a full-time employee of the village, excluding leaves of absences, are eligible for the incentive offer.
In addition to any benefits already accrued, any officer who was eligible and accepted retirement would have been paid $1,000 for each completed year of continuous full-time service as of the effective day of their retirement.
However, according to Gilbride, the date by which officers or the chief had to sign up for the program — November 30 — came and went without a single application.
Meanwhile, the village and the PBA continue to be mired in a contract negotiation that Gilbride said will likely move towards binding arbitration. He did note that recent settlements with police unions on Long Island could aid the village moving forward.
Last month, in Riverhead, the town settled with its PBA, agreeing to a four-year contract that offers a two percent annual increase for officers of that union.
The last public proposal made by the Sag Harbor PBA asked the village for a 4.5 percent increase in salary annually, in addition to other increases in benefits.
That figure has dropped since then, said Gilbride, although he declined to say by how much, only calling it “minimal.”
The last contract approved for the PBA gave officers a four percent annual increase in salary over a five-year contract.
Currently, Sag Harbor Village uses over $2 million of its annual $8 million budget to pay for the Sag Harbor Village Police Department, before benefits are factored into the equation. The annual average compensation for officers in the department is $183,884, with the average base salary coming in around $104,000.
If an officer is granted a leave of absence, which Gilbride said would only happen with the approval of both Chief Fabiano and the village board, during that period the village is not responsible to cover the salary or healthcare costs of that employee.
Board member Kevin Duchemin cautioned that during some shifts officers are already working in one-man shifts.
“If you go back to November, there are quite a few vacation and sick days that have been taken,” countered Gilbride.
According to Gilbride in November, discounting the officer on sick leave, 38 vacation days, sick and personal days were taken by officers in the department. In December, said Gilbride, a total of 35 days were used.
In both months, a majority of those absences were for vacation days, he added.
“I think you are right — there are a lot of one man shifts, but they are taking a lot of vacation days as well,” said Gilbride.
In other village board news, the board of trustees formally agreed to take Long Wharf from Suffolk County.
It also appointed Stephen L. Clarke, Jr. to the village’s Harbor Committee, Penni Ludwig was appointed to the village’s Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) and Tim McGuire was appointed to the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals.
The village board will have another special session on Friday, January 4 at 8 a.m. According to Gilbride, he said he expects the meeting to last all of two minutes and added that it will deal solely with the allocation of work for a part-time employee of the Sag Harbor Village Justice Court.
No discussions about the police department are expected to take place at the meeting, added Gilbride.