In a special meeting yesterday afternoon called at the request of Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, the Riverhead Town Board adopted an operating budget for 2018 that is unchanged from the budget presented by Supervisor Sean Walter in September. Yesterday was statutory deadline for the board to adopt an operating budget for the coming fiscal year.
Giglio said last week she would propose changes to preliminary budget at the special meeting, but did not seek any before the vote.
“I didn’t have any support” for the changes, the councilwoman said yesterday at the conclusion of the brief meeting.
On Thursday, after the town board’s work session, Giglio said she would seek changes to provide for possible contract settlements or arbitration awards for the town’s two police unions, whose members have been working without a contract since Jan. 1, 2016. Giglio also faulted the supervisor’s budget for relying on sewer stabilization fund revenues from Suffolk County to reduce the amount of Riverhead Sewer District taxes needed to pay the cost of the sewer plant’s upgrade. The the county disputes the town’s claim for the revenue and the town has sued the county to recover payment. She also objected to the budget’s inclusion of raises for department heads.
Giglio said Thursday she would also be offering budget amendments to remove department head salary increases and to reduce the salaries of the incoming supervisor’s staff.
Instead, the budget vote took place without any public discussion. Giglio and Dunleavy both voted no.
“I don’t agree with the department head raises in the budget,” Giglio said before casting her vote. On Thursday she said the department head raises were tied to the police Superior Officers Association contract, which expired at the end of 2015, and should not be awarded to department heads in the absence of a contract settlement with that police union. But the town board last December voted to treat the department heads like the Civil Service Employees Association, which had settled its contract with the town. Giglio voted against that resolution last year.
“I voted no for the resolution on Dec. 20, 2016 tying them to the CSEA contract,” Giglio said yesterday. “I think they should have individual management contracts and for that reason and others, like salaries — changes can be made after the first of the year before we adopt salary schedules — but because of the raises for department heads and other raises that are in the budget, I’m voting no,”
Dunleavy again raised his objection to the supervisor’s salary. “We’re one of the lowest economimc towns in Suffolk County and we have the second highest-paid supervisor in the county,” he said before voting.
“Damn well-deserved, I might add,” Walter interjected, smiling.
“I want to lower the salary to be comparable to the rest of the East End and I vote no,” Dunleavy said.
“But you didn’t do a resolution,” Walter said. “You don’t have a resolution. If that’s what you want, you’ve got to do your homework,” he told Dunleavy. “It’s a great budget and I vote yes,” he said. The budget resolution passed 3-2.
Asked after the meeting about the objections raised by the councilwoman Thursday, regarding the financial impacts of the possible settlement with the two police unions during the coming fiscal year, the supervisor said his tentative budget in fact includes money to fund increases in 2018 for one of the unions, which he said he expects will proceed to binding arbitration next year. But he would not disclose how much was in the budget for that purpose or where in the budget the funding is located.
“There are certain things included in the budget and it would be irresponsible of me as a sitting supervisor to expose my cards while we’re in negotiations,” Walter said in an interview. He would not provide specifics.
“There is some money in the budget, that’s as much as I will say. It’s not appropriate to disclose your hand as much as you —can not disclose it because it is a public document,” Walter said.
“It is a responsible budget. My plan is to go to binding arbitration,” Walter said about settling the police union contracts. He called binding arbitration “probably the best thing that could happen” for the town taxpayers.
“The budget reflects the town board’s management decision at the time that they would go to binding arbitration,” Walter said.
“The management decision was made by the board to send both unions to arbitration and based on the speed of the arbitration the budget can withstand settlement or an arbitrator’s award based on whoever gets done first,” Walter said. The Superior Officer’s Association is in mediation, with the next step being binding arbitration. “The PBA’s behind,” Walter said. “I can’t budget for behind.”
Giglio, who on Thursday faulted Walter’s budget for not providing for possible settlement of both police union contracts, yesterday acknowledged that the budget does provide funding to address at least one contract settlement or arbitration award, as the supervisor indicated.
The councilwoman said she believes the supervisor’s budgets have always had extra funding to cover things like unbudgeted overtime or other expenses.
“Look at the budget transfers in past years,” Giglio said. “I voted no. There was a $450,000 transfer — that’s a 1.5-percent tax increase,” she said.
Giglio and Hubbard both said the supervisor was wrong to say the town board decided to send the police unions to binding arbitration.
“That’s not even been discussed, to my recollection,” Hubbard said. “I don’t even remember discussing arbitration.”
Giglio said the board members “would have liked to settle” with the police unions.
Supervisor-elect Jens-Smith said after the meeting that “changes at the 11th hour, when the supervisor’s budget was presented to the board back on Sept. 30,” are not the best way to arrive at a good budget for the town.
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