File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Town and the Riverhead Police union representing rank and file officers have reached a five-year deal on a labor contract running from Jan. 1, 2016 through Dec. 31, 2020. The town board last night approved a stipulation setting forth changes to the last agreement, which expired Dec. 31, 2015.

The new deal gives most officers base-pay increases of 2 percent per year for 2016, 2017 and 2018 and 1.5 percent per year in the last two years of the contract (2019 and 2020.)

The contract allows the town to avoid a huge lump-sum payout for retroactive pay increases by providing that retroactive increases for 2016, ‘17 and ‘18 will be paid at the time of an employee’s separation from employment, spreading out and staggering the town’s obligation to make good on back pay over a period of years. In return, the town agreed that the retro amounts due will be at an employee’s prevailing rate as of their separation date, or their rate of salary as of Jan. 1, 2023, whichever is less.

The deal also requires active-duty police officers pay 15 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums, effective immediately. Until now, the town has paid 100 percent of the premium for either individual or family coverage. The Empire family policy provided to town employees has a current annual premium of $28,177 and is projected by the state to increase by more than 8 percent in 2019, according to Riverhead Town financial administrator William Rothaar.

Riverhead Police Officers will be the first police department on the East End to have all current employees paying into their health insurance, Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said in a press release. Jens-Smith and Deputy Supervisor Tim Hubbard — a retired Riverhead police officer himself — negotiated the terms of the deal on behalf of the town board.

Police officers who retire after the new contract is ratified will continue to have 100 percent of their individual health insurance premiums paid by the town until Dec. 31, 2020. After that, new retirees will have to pay 10 percent of their health insurance premium costs (either individual or family plans). Officers who retired prior to the ratification of the new contract will continue to have 100 percent of their individual premium and 50 percent of their family premium paid by the town.

A significant future savings for the town comes in how the agreement handles payout of accrued sick leave for new hires. Under the new contract, sick leave payout at retirement is limited to 150 days of accrued sick leave, payable at the employee’s salary rate at retirement. Existing employees — hired before the date of the new contract — can be paid for all accrued unused sick leave, up to a maximum of 300 days, as per the terms of the previous PBA contract.

The union also agreed to give up one paid holiday, with the contract combining the holidays for Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday into one “Presidents Day” holiday.

Flat-rate pay increases for detectives will take effect on Jan. 1, 2019 and Dec. 31, 2020. Detective salaries are set forth in a schedule of the previous collective bargaining agreement. Increases vary by detective grade — there are three grades — ranging from $822 annually for detective grade III on Jan. 1, 2019 to $4,000 for detective grade I on Jan. 1, 2020.

A separate salary schedule in the contract covering new officers with less than six years of service is still being finalized, Rothaar said. That schedule will cover a small minority of active officers — 10 or 12 people, he said. New officers — those in the police academy and in their first five years of service — receive a lower base pay than officers in their sixth and later years.

The new contract also provides modest increases in night differential pay, equipment and clothing allowances and stipends for K9 officers.

“The PBA realized that they could do more to help the town cut expenses and they suggested cost-saving measures to allow the town to do just that,” Hubbard said. “I cannot praise them enough for their willingness to work with us to get results — not only for their membership, but for Riverhead,” he said.

“The PBA negotiating team is happy that the current administration was able to work out a fair deal for PBA and the town,” Riverhead PBA president Dixon Palmer said in a press release.

The town struck a five-year deal with the much smaller Superior Officers Association bargaining unit in July. That 12-member unit was also without a contract since Jan. 1, 2016.

Its existing contract with Riverhead’s largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, expires at the end of this year. Jens-Smith said last night she expects to begin negotiations with the CSEA next month.

“I’m very pleased to be able to get these contracts settled so we can all move forward together,” the supervisor said.

Correction: This article has been amended to correct the date on which the second flat-rate pay increase for detectives takes effect. It is Dec. 31, 2020, not Jan. 1, 2020.

Final Riverhead PBA contract 2015-2020 by RiverheadLOCAL on Scribd

Riverhead PBA 2012-2015 CBA by RiverheadLOCAL on Scribd

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.