Riverhead Town’s department heads and nonunion management employees will have new employment contracts before the end of the year.
The town board last night voted 4 to 1 to approve the new contracts that cover 2016 (retroactively), 2017 and 2018, agreeing to a roughly 2-percent pay increase for each of the three years. The terms parallel those of the collective bargaining agreement between the town and its largest union approved by the board earlier this month.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio cast the lone dissenting vote.
“This will cost us $100,000 over the next few years and the tax increase approved for 2017 should not go to non-contract wages,” Giglio said before voting. “This money would be better spent on the computer software I’ve been seeking to improve quality of life, inspection tracking and more code enforcement,” she said.
“These are cost-of-living increases,” Supervisor Sean Walter countered. “It’s less than a 10th of 1 percent of the budget.” He argued that the pay increases were needed to maintain the integrity of the town’s salary structure. “If you don’t provide managers with increases, if you fall behind, you end up with employees making as much or more than their managers.”
Prior to last night’s meeting, Giglio said while the department head increases were included in the 2017 budget, “We don’t have to give it to them.”
The money would be better spent on items she advocates as necessary to improve the quality of life for Riverhead residents: additional computer software to make code enforcement more effective, and an additional two to four part-time code enforcement officers. Those expenditures were not included in the approved budget, which Giglio voted against.
Giglio has fought for computer software for use by the building, tax assessors and code enforcement departments since 2013, when Giglio was criticized during a re-election campaign for having expired building permits and no certificates of occupancy for improvements and additions to her personal residence. The councilwoman said her personal experience brought to light deficiencies in the town’s manual record-keeping capabilities. Giglio subsequently cleared up her building permit issues and eventually gained the town board’s agreement to purchase computer software for the building department and tax assessors office.
Now Giglio is advocating purchasing a software module that would tie the fire marshal’s office in with that system.
At least two, and ideally four, part-time code enforcement officers should be hired to work specifically during hours outside the traditional work day for town employees, according to Giglio. The new officers’ focus would be “illegal, overcrowded housing throughout town,” a problem Giglio says is reaching crisis proportions in Riverhead.
“Like the building department software, these expenditures would bring in more revenue and then we can give the department heads raises,” Giglio said.
Members of Riverhead Town’s two police unions, the Police Benevolent Association and the Superior Officers Association, are working without a contract; those contracts expired Dec. 31, 2015.